Over the last couple of years members of the Escambia County Sea Grant Extension Citizen Science team have been reporting manatees in area waters. With the increase in reports it was decided to partner with the Pensacola-Perdido Bay Estuary Program, and Dauphin Island Sea Labs Manatee Sighting Network and log encounters in the bay area.
From January 1 to November 26 59 manatee records were logged.
55 of these were single individuals.
2 reports had 2 manatees swimming together (one pair was a mother and a calf).
2 other reports had 3 manatee swimming together.
This is a total of 65 manatees reported in 2020.
48% were during the summer.
45% were during the spring.
7% were during either the fall or winter.
66% were seen in the Intracoastal Water Way.
18% were seen in the Gulf of Mexico.
15% were seen in the upper bay area.
35% of these were traveling west.
31% were traveling east.
34% did not report a direction.
57% of those reported in the spring were heading east. 45% were heading west.
59% of those reported in the summer were heading west. 41% were heading east.
There were NO manatee fatalities reported in Escambia County this year.
There was ONE fatality in Santa Rosa County. This occurred in January and was unrecovered. It is presumed this animal died of cold stress.
During the winter months when the water temperatures reach 67°F manatees seek refuge in the warmer springs (70-72°F) of central Florida or the warmer waters of south Florida.
Any local manatee seen in our area where water temperatures are 67°F or less are at risk of cold stress and the FWC should be called (1-888-404-FWCC (3922)).
Sightings of local manatees during the warmer months should be reported to Escambia County Sea Grant Extension – firstname.lastname@example.org or (850)475-5239 ext.111. Or the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Manatee Sighting Network www.manatee.disl.org or 1-866-493-5803.
With up to 65 manatees moving through our area and only one fatality occurring (that being presumed to have been cold stressed as it was reported in January) is encouraging that boating and manatees can occur together.
519 manatee deaths were reported in 2020 up to November 27 across the state of Florida.
33% of those were not necropsied
18% were perinatal deaths (just before or after birth)
15% were from undetermined causes, another 15% were from boat strikes
8% were from cold stressed and another 8% were from natural causes
3% were from other human activities
0.8% were from flood gates or canal locks.
We do ask all boaters to be manatee aware during the boating season to help keep boat strikes from occurring.