Manatee Update

AMale_GHC_2012On Thursday, the weather did not look in our favor for much manatee tracking. So, Kendria and I caught up on our various computer “chores” before making a delivery to the mail boat, bound for Nassau. At around 1700 we received a phone call reporting a manatee at a nearby dock. We grabbed the gear and headed over, but at first, found nothing. Just as we were about to leave, we saw the adult male, who is not yet tagged, swim through the area (followed by a nurse shark!). He was on the move, so we decided to hop in the boat and look for him. We searched the marina and the harbor with no luck. On the way back there he was…with the juvenile male! So, we pulled the boat into a slip and we slipped in the water ourselves. Let no one tell you that it is easy to put a tag on a healthy manatee! These guys were having none of it! So, despite all our effort and good intentions, the tag will have to wait for another day. For now, enjoy this picture of the adult male….

On Friday, our morning began with thunderstorms and Kendria periodically checked the satellite data and radio signals, discovering that Rita & Georgie had moved back south, closer to our position. While we waited for the boat mechanic to arrive, we saw the adult male pass by our dock at noon. It wasn’t until nearly 1700 that the boat was ready, but the radio signals were still strong. Into the boat we went, only to discover that the manatees were just a few docks down – Rita, Georgia, the adult male and the juvenile male! We quickly returned the boat, hopped in the water and just swam to their location. Rita is hardly shy and will seemly do anything to get lettuce from your hand. It’s a special treat for me to be able to touch and feed wild animals (we would never do either with the dolphin in Bimini), but Rita is already accustomed to this type of interaction, so we utilize this comfort level when we need to keep them around (but the manatees are not, and should not be, given food or water otherwise). In this case, we were hoping that holding Rita’s attention would therefore keep the males in the area. This part of our plan worked out, but unfortunately, we still weren’t able to secure the tag on either male. We did come much closer than yesterday though, so hopefully these are just stepping stones to a successful tagging tomorrow!