Did you know that manatees have been observed in South Carolina as early as 1850? The public can learn such facts about manatees, and can also report sightings of manatees in South Carolina, at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Web site http://www.dnr.sc.gov/manatee/.
To report an injured manatee in South Carolina during normal business hours, you can also call (843) 953-9015 or (843) 844-2473 in Charleston. After hours, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hotline at 1-800-922-5431. You can also use the Manatee Sighting Form at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/manatee/sight.htm.
“Information collected is available on the Web site, therefore increasing the public’s awareness of manatees in our rivers and estuaries and the intracoastal water way and participation in manatee conservation,” said DuBose Griffin, DNR biologist who designed the site and will maintain and update it on a regular basis.
Records suggest that manatees are rare visitors in South Carolina. According to the Web site, only 52 records of manatees in the state were documented between 1850 and 1992, a period of 142 years. The DNR recorded 25 of those sightings between 1986 and 1992.
The DNR began a project in 1993 to document manatees in South Carolina waters. Posters were placed in coastal marinas requesting information on manatee sightings. DNR biologists were somewhat surprised when 77 reports of manatees were received.
Most sightings recorded from the project occurred along the south coast, but regular reports were received from the entire coastline. During 1994 and 1995, the DNR received an additional 40 and 32 manatee reports, respectively. The project continued to gain popularity with the public, and between 1996 and 2003 an additional 848 manatees were reported.
“The greater number of sightings in recent years may reflect the public’s increased awareness of the existence of manatees in our state,” Griffin said. Griffin hopes the Web site will further increase public participation, input and knowledge about manatees in South Carolina.Biologists are also asking the public to keep a lookout for leatherback sea turtles and mating loggerheads. There are sighting forms for both of these species on the sea turtle Web site at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/seaturtle/. You can also call (843) 953-9015 or (843) 844-2473 during regular business hours. After hours, contact the DNR hotline at 1-800-922-5431.