Boaters across south Louisiana need to be aware of the signs the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries placed during August to warn boaters of the possible presence of manatees — yes, the “sea cows” tourists pay handsomely to see in Florida waters.
Wildlife and Fisheries folks reported receiving sightings of West Indian manatees in coastal marshes and freshwater habitat “throughout coastal Louisiana,” apparently the result of late spring-through-summer migration of this animal from Florida’s near year-round warm waters.
The LDWF staff posted caution signs near boat launches from St. Tammany, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes west across the coastal landscape to Cameron Parish to alert boaters this threatened species.
“Our primary concern is manatees being injured by boat propellers,’’ LDWF Endangered Species biologist Keri Lejeune said in an agency release. “Manatees are slow-moving, curious animals. If a manatee is spotted while boating, boaters should idle and disengage propellers until the animal is at a safe distance and out of harm’s way.
“The manatee caution signage will help alert boaters and the public that manatees can be found in Louisiana waters and provides contact information to report sightings to LDWF,’’ Lejeune said.
The LDWF staff explained that manatees cannot thrive in water temperatures below 68 degrees. Therefore, it’s expected any manatees in Louisiana waters will begin moving back to Florida during the early fall to overwinter in their home waters.
Lejeune asked boaters to report manatee sightings with, if possible, photographs or video. Sightings can be reported to the LDWF’s 24-hour hotline (800) 442-2511 or email: email@example.com.