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West Indian Manatees in North Carolina


Trichechus manatus

STATUS: Endangered

DESCRIPTION: The West Indian Manatee is a large gray or brown aquatic mammal. Adults average about 10 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds. They have no hindlimbs, and their forelimbs are modified as flippers. Manatee tails are flattened horizontally and rounded. Their body is covered with sparse hairs and their muzzles with stiff whiskers. Sexes are distinguished by the position of the genital openings and presence or absence of mammary glands. Manatees will consume any aquatic vegetation available to them and sometimes even shoreline vegetation. Although primarily herbivorous, they will occasionally feed on fish. Manatees may spend about 5 hours a day feeding, and may consume 4 to 9 percent of their body weight a day.

RANGE AND POPULATION LEVEL: During summer months, they may migrate as far north as coastal Virginia on the east coast and the Louisiana coast on the Gulf of Mexico.

HABITAT: Manatees inhabit both salt and fresh water of sufficient depth (1.5 meters to usually less than 6 meters) throughout their range. They may be encountered in canals, rivers, estuarine habitats, saltwater bays, and on occasion have been observed as much as 3.7 miles off the Florida Gulf coast. Between October and April, Florida manatees concentrate in areas of warmer water. When water temperatures drop below about 21 to 22 degrees Centigrade, they migrate to south Florida or form large aggregations in natural springs and industrial outfalls. Severe cold fronts have been known to kill manatees when the animals did not have access to warm water refuges. During warmer months they appear to choose areas based on an adequate food supply, water depth, and proximity to fresh water. Manatees may not need fresh water but they are frequently observed drinking fresh water from hoses, sewage outfalls, and culverts. There is no evidence of any periodicity in manatee habitat use in Puerto Rico.

Species Distribution from known occurrences. Species may occur in similar habitats in other counties.Green counties indicate observed within 20 years. Yellow counties indicate an obscure data reference to the species in the county. Red counties indicate observed more than 20 years ago.

manatee.gif - North Carolina  county map with species location

Species Location Map based on information provided by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.

Precautionary Measures Guidelines can be found in manatee_guidelines.pdf

For additional information regarding this Web page, contact David Rabon, in Raleigh, NC, at david_rabon@fws.gov

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