Manatee birth surprises, delights crowd at Siesta Harbor

Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 11:08 AM CDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A group on onlookers thought they were watching a manatee in distress in a canal in Siesta Harbor. One of the people on the dock was Cindy Burnett, a volunteer at Mote Marine Laboratory.

She was on the phone with Mote’s Standing Investigations Program hotline when they realized this was a rare sight -- the manatee was giving birth. Video of the event was captured and sent to Mote.

“I was really glad they called us and shared the video with us,” said Staff Biologist Amber Lea Kincaid.

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Birth of a manatee

Mote researchers are actually familiar with the new mom, said Staff Biologist Jennifer Johnson “We first documented this manatee, U2494, in January 2005 at Lee County Manatee Park in Fort Myers, and we had 10 total sightings of her from 2005-2019,” she said. “We’ve also documented at least three other calves with her throughout the years, making April 12th’s birth at least her fourth.”

Kerri Scolardi, a senior biologist at Mote says sightings on the Suncoast will be common. “Many manatees are still in their spring distribution areas, so we can expect to see a lot of manatees on the move in the coming weeks, including mom and calf pairs, as local waters continue to warm.”

Scolardi said boaters should be extra vigilant. “This is a very important time for everyone recreating out on the water to remain vigilant in abiding by best practices to keep manatees safe.”

Presently, state officials are investigating a high level of manatee mortalities and responding to manatee rescues along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Watercraft collisions, often deadly, are the leading human-related causes of death for manatees. As manatees are on the move, and soon-to-be-summer will lead to more recreational boat activity, the following are ways for boaters to help keep manatees safe:

  • Abide by speed zones, and go slow in shallow areas or near seagrass beds. Manatees spend a lot of time near the surface of the water or foraging near seagrass. Slowing down can save a life.
  • Wearing polarized lenses and using a spotter can also aide in a boater’s ability to spot marine life in the water.
  • Stow your line and dispose of trash properly. Pollution can cause entanglements or can be ingested by manatees.
  • Never feed or provide water to manatees. Not only is this illegal due to the protections that manatees enjoy, but it can habituate manatees to humans and alter their behavior.
  • If you see a distressed or deceased manatee in the Sarasota or Manatee counties, call Mote’s 24/7 hotline at 888-345-2335. In other Florida counties, call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 24/7 hotline at 888-404-3922. Do NOT attempt to assist a manatee in distress.
  • Summer also means an increase in manatee mating activity. Manatees mate in groups called herds, and often come close to shore. If you see a group of manatees on shore, please remember to keep a safe distance of 50 yards and call Mote’s hotline.

Copyright 2021 WWSB. All rights reserved.

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