Manatee Migration Season Begins; Increased Reports of Manatees in Mississippi

Manatee migration season has begun with reports last week by two fishermen of hooked manatees near the Katrina Reef/Deer Island area of Biloxi Bay.

“We have 2-5 times more sightings reported in Mississippi than we have had in the past several years, including one of our tagged animals at the Louisiana-Mississippi border,” said Dr. Ruth Carmichael, Senior Marine Scientist, DISL, and Director of the Sea Lab’s Marine Sighting Network (MSN). “Something is going on that we do not fully understand, perhaps due to early warmer temperatures and the greater freshwater inputs to the west, but we are definitely looking at evidence of more animals further west earlier in the year this year than we have seen before.”

With the onset of warmer weather, manatees have begun their migration season to our local waters.  MSN is encouraging the public to report their sightings and to educate themselves on what to do when encountering these gentle giants.  “We really depend on the public to report every sighting, any time, as soon as possible,” urges Dr. Carmichael.  In fact, Zewie, the third manatee captured and tagged by MSN at Dog River last summer, has already been tracked from his home in Crystal River, Florida, to a return to Mobile Bay last month.  After a brief stay, he headed to Louisiana, and researchers continue to track his movements along the Gulf Coast (follow Zewie’s movements on MSN’s website).

Report any manatee sightings to MSN via our website http://manatee.disl.org, toll free number, 1-866-493-5803, or email, manatee@disl.org. The website offers much more information on how you can help and volunteer.

Since 2007, MSN has processed over 600 manatee sighting reports.  Many come from boaters, who are advised caution in the waters when near a manatee.  Ph.D student Allen Aven states, “Manatees need space and people who spot them should not alter their natural behavior.  The best rule of thumb is to stay at least 100 feet from manatees since they are federally protected and report any sightings as soon as possible.”

 

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