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A manatee in Maryland

Published October 19, 2010

Last week, the Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team was surprised by reports of a manatee spotted in the upper Patapsco River very near Baltimore. Since then, additional reports of a manatee sighting have been made. Aquarium staff are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor sightings and the condition of the manatee.

It might sound impossible, but the Aquarium has documented manatee sightings in Maryland for the last 10 years. 

Earlier this summer, we documented several manatee sightings in the upper Patapsco River, with the last (until now) confirmed sighting in August (as seen in the photo, courtesy of Ryan Neal).

Manatees typically travel up the East Coast from Florida in the warm summer months – July through September. Maryland’s water temperatures in the summer months are warm enough for the manatees, and the Chesapeake Bay has an abundance of submerged sea grasses that manatees eat as their main source of food.

However, as the water temperatures being to drop in our area, the manatees should instinctively begin to head south again – back to warmer waters. Current water temperatures around the area are holding around 66-67 degrees during the day, but more shallow areas are dipping down into the lower 60s at night. Manatees need to be in temperatures of at least 68 degrees to survive, which is why we are paying very close attention to these sightings.

Last year, a manatee that traveled through Maryland in the summer ended up getting stuck in the cold waters of New Jersey in October. Eventually, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated an effort to rescue and transport the manatee to the Miami Seaquarium in Florida. The Miami Seaquarium rehabilitated the manatee and then released him back into the warm waters off the Miami coast.

For now, the National Aquarium is monitoring the area by land, air and sea to determine location and health of this manatee. You can help by reporting any sightings to the stranding hotline at 410-373-0083.

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