Manatee Migrations on Suwannee River

In need of help here….Stan Meeks a protector and advocate of the manatee on the Suwannee River has this information for the public.  It is a bit shocking to me that boating incidents such as these still happen in this day and age.  If anyone has any information please contact me or Stan and the authorities…namely Fish  & Wildlife Commission.

Please remember that manatees move into warmer waters during the winter.  The Suwannee River is their access point from the Gulf of Mexico.  Pay attention to large floating masses and SLOW DOWN.

I hope they find the “ large banana yellow ‘Cigar’ boat with very large black motor” and the missing manatee(s). 

Also for those who are taking notes on how many manatees you are seeing on the rivers…please tell Stan or me.  Please note in your sightings where and when as exact as possible.  If you have a GPS available that is the ideal pinpointing method. 

Merrillee,  OSFR,  [email protected]

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November 15, 2008
Please if you see or hear of any competent sightings of a 6 month calf (4-5 feet long est.) with the ocean brown algae covering its body, please get time and location details to me as soon as you can.  Thank you.

 Observations:

I traveled from Brandon upriver six miles checking both sides twice and experienced nothing but raw, wet weather.  I covered six miles of likely places for manatees with no manatees seen.  Even in the grass beds without algae there was no sign of grazing. Most of the grass beds are about 50/50 grass/algae.

I will check the Santa Fe within the next three days.

Stan Meeks,  [email protected]
Manatee Advocate
Suwannee River Keepers, Inc.

Manatee sighting reports and observations on the Suwannee River from Fanning Springs to town of Suwanneee.

10/23/08 – 11/4/08

Stan Meeks
Manatee Advocate
Suwannee River Keepers, Inc.

 October 23, 2008 –October 28, Daylight to dark

Fanning Springs area 6-8 animals reported in 4 days; 6 confirmed
Manatee Springs area 8-12animals reported in last 4 days; 7 confirmed
Town of Suwannee area up to 20 animals reported; 13 confirmed.
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October 30, 2008 until sundown Monday, November 4

From Hwy 19 Bridge at Fanning Springs to mouth of river past town of Suwannee, I have seen 26 individual animals of 40 that were reported to me.  I am sure that I saw at least 40 animals in those 4 days and may be more that I could not identify individually in the dark water.
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November 1, 2008 –November 4, Daylight to dark

Saturday November 1, 2008…early morning about 7:30am – 8:00am ish, a large banana yellow “Cigar” boat with very large black motor left Joe Anderson Boat Ramp at Hwy 19 and Suwannee River, leaving dock area he noticed the 12 manatees that I had been following down river since before sunrise and he applied full power…taking dead aim, running directly through the 12 manatee herd and missing me by one foot as I tried to cross the “T” in order to cut him off. 

It was too foggy and I was too low in the water to photograph his actions or boat number.  I am told by locals he is a regular weekend partyer at the ramp.  Now I am a regular watcher of the ramp on weekend mornings.

Of the 12 manatee herd that I was following, two cows were nursing new calves.  My estimate; the caves were born within last 12 days of that Saturday.  The herd also had two juvenile nursing calves, estimated 5-8 months old.  He intentionally ran directly ran over one nursing cow and her calf.  I estimated the calf about 6 months old with color of the winter algae that forms on the animals in saltwater.

On Saturday after the cow did not surface for air after 45 minutes, I called Susan Butler, USGS to insure I was following procedure.  Sally Lieb, MSSP manager was informed of my concern for the possibility of a struck cow, which she did not seem to take my report seriously in anyway or form (might even have been some of her usual ridicule for Stan Meeks in the conversation) and then I reported to the FWC Hotline number. 

Two hours later a concerned biologist from the FWC returned my call and discussed the event.  Also I spoke with Susan Butler, USGS again and both agreed since the calf was occasionally seen that it would be best to wait until Sunday afternoon to see if the injured cow returned for her calf. 

By Saturday afternoon all but one nursing cow was settled in Fanning Springs, seems like several of the other nursing cows “adopted” the lone calf and allowed it to nurse.  I stayed on the river looking for signs of the cow until sunset.
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Sunday afternoon, near Old Pine Landing, suddenly a large “lump” emerged up and out of the water, expelled a huge amount of air and sank below the surface before I could identify it.  I could only assume that it was the cow from Saturday’s collision and it was killed, then bloated and floated until the internal air pressure was released.

I floated slowly down the river until sunset finding no sign of the carcass.

The “orphaned” calf was ok in Fanning Springs with 3 other calves; two infants and one juvenile.  They are there mostly in the early morning and late evenings.  I have trouble getting valid reports from Manatee Springs unless I check myself, in person.
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Manatee sightings from Fanning Spring to Manatee Springs

Eight animals observed between noon-7pm; Manatees seen close to sunset one adult, 4 nursing calves and three nursing cows in Fanning by sunset.
6-8 manatees at Manatee Springs area all day, only one pair of cow with calf.
9 manatees in the area at the mouth of the Suwannee.

 Tuesday, November 4

Same as yesterday
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Park Rangers and Staff at Fanning Springs were extremely cooperative, as usual.
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I plan to go to the Upper Suwannee and Santa Fe for a few days starting this Saturday afternoon.  Saturday and Sunday morning I will be near Joe Anderson Landing at Hwy 19 and the Suwannee River looking for a bright yellow boat with a huge black motor.  The balance of the next four days will be spent on the upper Suwannee River watching for manatees.

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