Endangered manatee spotted in Md. for first time

September 20, 1994|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Eastern Shore Bureau of The Sun

KENT NARROWS -- The manatee -- Florida's official state marine mammal -- has turned up in Maryland waters for the first time.

The state Department of Natural Resources is asking boaters near the Chester River and Eastern Bay to be on the lookout for, but not to approach, the 7- to 10-foot-long manatee, or "sea cow," sighted several times over the weekend.

A large, aquatic creature found primarily in Florida's warm waters, the manatee is an endangered species. It surfaces to breathe and is susceptible to injury from boat hulls and propellers.

The latest sightings put the manatee near the Kent Narrows, an area with heavy boat traffic.

Manatees are usually gray or brown, have large heads, small flippers on each side, and a large, fan-shaped tail. It is a violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act to approach the creature, according to the National Aquarium.

Manatees seldom venture north of Georgia. This is the first confirmed sighting of the animal above the Potomac River, DNR officials said.

Boaters first sighted the manatee Labor Day weekend in Langford Creek off the Chester River.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists tracking the sightings said manatees prefer warm water temperatures.

"Hopefully, it will migrate south when the weather becomes inclement here," a DNR spokeswoman said.

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