Florida manatees, Trichechus manatus latirostris, respond to approaching vessels
Florida manatees inhabit shallow coastal and estuarine waters of the southeast US, a range that brings them into frequent contact with vessels. More than 30% of documented annual mortalities are attributed to vessel collisions, and most living animals bear the scars of multiple, non-lethal encounters. To document the behavior of manatees in the presence of vessels, we recorded their movements with an overhead video system. We scored six aspects of behavior during 170 vessel approaches, and compared their behavior with 187 control segments when no boats were present. Manatees in shallow waters and at the edge of the channel responded to approaches by orienting towards the nearest deep water, a boat channel, and increasing their swimming speed. Close boat approaches and shallow water depths exacerbated these responses. Our results indicate that manatees detect and respond to approaching vessels with an apparent flight response, a response which includes movement towards deeper water. If given sufficient time, i.e., approached or passed slowly, the manatees may then be able to reach deeper water and safe depths. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Nowacek, SM; Wells, RS; Owen, ECG; Speakman, TR; Flamm, RO; Nowacek, DP
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)