In fact, there was a recent unconfirmed sighting of a manatee near Benedict, Maryland, in the upper Patuxent River! Though the sighting wasn’t confirmed by photo, the description was consistent with a manatee.
West Indian manatees—the species found in North America—primarily live in Florida, but there are regular manatee sightings off the coast of Maryland and the rest of the mid-Atlantic in the summer months, when water in the region is warm enough for these gentle giants.
Manatees travel this far north because they’re on the hunt for food! They’re herbivores, and the submerged aquatic vegetation growing in the Chesapeake Bay is ideal for their voracious appetites. They can spend up to seven hours a day snacking on plants, and can eat 100 to 200 pounds of food in 24 hours.
To help keep these seasonal visitors to our local waterways safe, remember to:
- Abide by speed zone regulations when boating. Collisions with watercraft are the leading human-caused threat to manatees. When slow-moving manatees come to the surface of the water to breathe, only their nostrils are visible—making them easy to miss and particularly susceptible to boat strikes. Abide by boating speed zone regulations to help protect manatees that may be in our local waterways.
- Observe from a distance. As with all wildlife, it’s important to observe manatees from a distance. Harassment by humans is a big issue for these marine mammals.
- Call our animal rescue hotline. If you think you spot a manatee locally, call the National Aquarium’s animal rescue hotline at 410-576-3880 so our team can help ensure its safety.
West Indian manatees are no longer on the endangered species list—learn more about their change in status, which went into effect earlier this year.