Thursday, October 22, 2009

Manatees sighted in NJ and VA

It's that time of the year along the eastern coast of the USA. With a sudden drop in temperatures last week, at least 2 manatees may be too far north to make it back home to Florida for the winter. As behavioral thermoregulators, these unique and endangered "sea cows" seek warmer water when temperatures drop below ~68 F. Extended periods of time in cooler water is lethal.

I have hope for the manatee in the James River, near Richmond, Virginia. There is a warm water effluent there, which the manatee may know from previous travels. It's not unusual to hear reports of manatees in the Chesapeake Bay watershed as late as the Urbanna Oyster Festival, which is held on the first Friday & Saturday in November each year.

The NJ animal, probably Ilya, who has been sighted several times in the area over the past month, may not survive if the rescue team cannot find and recover him.

I'm hoping for a warm spell so these and any other sirenian wanderlusts can find their way south for the winter.

Here are the latest reports on both sea cows:

Fearing chilly end for manatee seen in Kill Van Kull (New Jersey)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 By CHARLES HACK JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

Animal rescuers fear for the welfare of a sea cow that was last reported in the Kill Van Kull near the Atlas Yacht Club in Bayonne on Monday, several hundred miles north of its native Florida waters, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

A caller reported seeing a manatee - also known as a sea cow - at about 8:30 p.m. Monday night to U.S. Coast Guard, officials said. Coast Guard, New Jersey State Police and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center were unable to find the manatee and confirm if it was Ilya, a manatee that wandered north from Florida, where it has been living for at least a decade.
It was spotted near Massachusetts and Connecticut in August and most recently in the Arthur Kill near Linden on Friday.

"We don't know with certainty it was Ilya," said Chuck Underwood, a public information officer from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, based in Jacksonville Fla. "The sighting was only for two to three minutes so although it seems likely we can't confirm it."

Ilya, a 6-to 8-foot-long male manatee with a thick fan-shaped tail with propeller scars on its back, was previously seen Friday afternoon in the Arthur Kill between Staten Island and the ConocoPhillips refinery in Linden, after first being spotted in the area the day before.
Director Robert Schoelkopf said the mammal appeared healthy at the time, but officials are now concerned it could die in the chilly New Jersey waters.

Manatee reported in James River (Richmond, Virginia)
By Rex Springston Published: October 21, 2009

A manatee has been spotted in the James River, wildlife officials say. The large aquatic mammal, also called a sea cow, was reported Tuesday just below downtown Richmond and several miles downriver, officials say.

Pictures sent in by a witness show what appears to indeed be a manatee, said Julia Dixon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "It does look like we have a manatee hanging around the area," Dixon said today. The docile, plant-eating animals are native to Florida. Some head north in summer, apparently looking for new places to live. When the water turns cold, they go back south.

The average adult is about 10 feet long and weighs about 1,000 pounds. Anyone who sees the manatee or gets a picture of it should call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (804) 693-6694.
However, a wildlife service official asked that people not go out looking for the animal, which is an endangered species.

Officials don't want people hitting the manatee with their boats or otherwise disturbing it. A manatee was spotted in Richmond in 2002.

No comments: