West Indian manatees—the species found in North America—primarily live in Florida, but there are regular sightings off the coast of Maryland and the rest of the mid-Atlantic in the summer months, when they travel up the Atlantic coast in search of food. The Chesapeake Bay is full of sea grasses—this voracious herbivore’s meal of choice. Manatees can spend up to seven hours a day snacking on plants, and can eat 100 to 200 pounds of food in 24 hours.
For decades, manatees were listed as an endangered species, and a much-celebrated population increase resulted in a status change from “endangered” to “threatened” two years ago.
Because their population is still on the rebound, it’s important we continue to protect these gentle giants visiting our area. Here’s how:
- Be a smart boater! When out on the water in boats or on jet skis, make sure you’re abiding by all speed zone laws. Manatees move very slowly through the water with only their nostrils above the surface—making them extremely hard to spot from a fast-moving vessel. Driving slow and paying close attention to the water will help avoid any accidents.
- Stay as far away as you can! It’s important to give manatees their space as they swim through the water. A leading threat facing manatees is harassment by humans.
- Report the sighting to our experts! If you think you spot a manatee in any of Maryland’s waterways, call the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue hotline at 410-576-3880 so our team can guarantee its health and safety.
As local water temperatures begin to drop in September, these migrating manatees will begin to head south, back to warmer waters.
Stay tuned for more updates from National Aquarium Animal Rescue!