Lowcountry Locals: The Manatee

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Edisto’s locals and vacationers are spoiled when it comes to seeing some of the Atlantic’s most popular sea creatures. Every day, dolphins are spotted right off the coast feeding and playing, jellyfish bob in the depths of the saltwater creeks, and fish of all kinds jump in and out of the water. But what many people never get a chance to see is the South Carolina manatee.

For close to 200 years, manatees have been spotted all along the coast in the state. They love the warm water of the Lowcountry and can be spotted from April to October. Many people never get the chance to see these large mammals of the sea because there aren’t many in the area. However, they are a curious and gentle animal and those traits often lead to trouble for the manatees because they can become too familiar with humans and increase their risk of being injured by boats.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources places signs in various boating areas where manatees have been spotted to remind boaters to be watchful of these endangered creatures. Many times manatees suffer injuries on their backs due to boat propellers due to the fact that they are slow swimmers and unable to get out of the way of a boat that is barreling through the water unaware of its presence.

To further protect the manatees from unnecessary harm, it is illegal to feed or water them. Squirting manatees with fresh water at a dock is also prohibited in spite of the fact that they love it.

While it is hard for many animal lovers to avoid the urge to pet, feed, or water an animal, it is better to leave the manatees alone so that they do not become too comfortable around docks and boats and increase their chances of being harmed.

In addition to hanging out at docks, manatees are frequently spotted in the shallow water on the edge of the marsh where they feed. Even though many boaters will never get the chance to see a manatee, they should still be aware of the fact that one could be in the water and act accordingly.

If you do see a manatee, contact the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources online. To report an injured manatee call 1-800-922-5431.

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