Chessie seen in Anne Arundel's Rock Creek National Aquarium expert to investigate sightings by two people Monday

August 01, 1996|By Jal Mehta | Jal Mehta,SUN STAFF

A marine biologist for the National Aquarium will scan the waters around Rock Creek in northeast Anne Arundel County today, searching for Chessie, the manatee that first wandered into the Chesapeake Bay in 1994.

Two people reported seeing the 10-foot, 1,500-pound sea cow Monday in the Patapsco River tributary.

Dave Scofield, the marine biologist, said yesterday that the reports, while unconfirmed, are consistent with the profile of Chessie.

Both callers described seeing round swirls about the diameter of a bushelbasket on the surface of the water, said Scofield.

A manatee makes similar swirls, known as manatee footprints, by moving its tail up and down in the water.

Scofield and other biologists were hampered by overcast weather Tuesday and yesterdaybut expected to search with a boat and helicopter today.

Manatees can move 25 to 100 miles per day, Scofield cautioned, so the manatee could be anywhere in the mid-Atlantic region. But the search will begin in Rock Creek.

Scofield said the aquarium wants only to confirm the sighting and location of the manatee.

Chessie has been heading north this summer, as he has the past two years. He was known to be near Morehead City, N.C., on July 9, when he became separated from the radio transmitter used to track his movements.

Chessie first visited the Chesapeake in September 1994 but was captured and flown back to the Banana River in Florida by scientists who feared that the cool autumn waters would kill him.

Last year, Chessie made a brief appearance in the Chesapeake Bay before returning to the ocean and swimming to Point Judith, R.I. He made the return trip to Florida on his own.

Anyone who spots a manatee is asked to report the sighting to the National Biological Services in Gainesville, Fla., at (352) 372-2571; the National Marine Fisheries Service in Silver Spring at (301) 713-2289; or the National Aquarium in Baltimore at (410) 576-8723.

Manatees are an endangered species and should not be interfered with, said Linda Taylor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"They're very docile creatures, that's why they've become endangered," she said.

"The best thing to do is to keep your distance."

Pub Date: 8/01/96

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