Manatees and winter don’t exactly go in the same sentence.
That’s why biologists say manatee sightings this late in the year should be reported.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is urging folks to be on the lookout for not only the more common sea turtle that could be suffering from cold stress, but also manatees.
“Normally they should be several hundred miles to the south of this state this time of year,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Raleigh Field Office Biologist John Hammond said. “In December by now the water temperatures have dropped substantially. If (manatees) are not cold stunned, they are at high risk.”
Cold stress can be difficult to identify, Hammond said, so it is best to report any manatee sightings in this area this time of year.
Cold stress causes manatees to be sluggish and incapable of swimming to the warmer waters they want and need.
According to USFWS, manatees are a migratory species that live in estuaries, rivers and sounds during the warmer months. They are commonly seen in Florida, but have been seen as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts.
Swan Point Marina in Sneads Ferry spotted four manatees in November.
A post to the marina’s website explained that a group of manatees that frequented the marina had returned after a multiple-year hiatus.
Although Sneads Ferry’s manatees weren’t seen by everyone who visited the marina it doesn’t mean they aren’t in the area.
Hammond stressed that manatees are a rarity in the area and interaction with them can be appealing, but need to be kept to just observing.
“Anytime anyone, any time of the year, not just the winter when a citizen fears a manatee may be suffering from cold stress, please contact our office,” he said. “We want to know about them being here so we can try and learn more about how they move and why they are here.”
If a manatee is sighted in the area, contact Hammond at 919-856-4520.