With Charleston being crowned the best city in the world by Travel + Leisure (and Folly getting a shout-out for being a big part of the Holy City’s appeal), an influx of visitors eager to tour our beautiful beach town is to be expected — it was only a matter of time.
But one new traveler to our coast is takes residents by surprise: manatees!
But what was the gentle giant doing so far up the Eastern seaboard? In a word, migrating.
Manatees are an endemic species in Florida but, beginning when the water temperatures along the South Carolina coast rise into the upper 60s, these peaceful mammals migrate into our native waters. Here, they cruise through our tidal rivers, estuaries and, yes, even deeper channels like the Harbor throughout the summer months.
When cooler weather starts to temper our warm summer waters, the manatees sojourn back to Florida. This typically takes place between September and October.
Occasionally, a reticent manatee takes a bit too long saying goodbye to the South Carolina coast (who can blame them?) and falls victim to cold stress. Such was the case in December of 2015, when the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue team — with a little help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources — rescued and rehabilitated a 1,300 lb male manatee trapped in the upper reaches of the Cooper River.
Stories like that of Goose, the nickname given to the rescued manatee, highlight the importance of alerting the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to any sightings.
Tagged with a radio transmitter during his rehabilitation, Goose returned to the South Carolina coast the following year. By reporting manatee sightings, the public can help track the movements and migratory patterns of these beloved creatures which, in turn, helps keep them safe.
In a blog post last month, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources outlined the process, urging locals to keep an eye out for these docile sea-dwellers.
Among the advice? Do not attempt to approach manatees in a boat, as there is the inherent risk of injuring them with the propellers. In general, it’s best to admire manatees from a distance.
“Feeding and water manatees is illegal and encourages the mammals to spend time at docks and marinas,” explained DNR veterinarian Al Segars, “making them more susceptible to boat strikes, which is one of the main causes of mortality for manatees.”
If you do find yourself in close proximity to one of these “sea cows,” count yourself lucky to have seen such an amazing animal.