South Carolina isn’t known for being a home to large groups of manatees, so it was unusual when 10 were spotted in the Cooper River, near Charleston, last week.
They were spotted in the upper Cooper River near a warm water outflow and were rescued, according to multiple reports.
Rapidly falling water temperatures in the river kept the manatees close to the outflow instead of traveling south, live5news.com reported. This caused the manatees to be isolated from food and warmer waters.
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The manatees were cold-stressed, making the endangered animals more susceptible to disease and sickness, abcnews4.com reported. In some cases, cold stress syndrome can be deadly.
About 50 manatees are thought to migrate from Florida to the Lowcountry each summer – about 1 percent of the population – then return when winter waters begin to cool, according to postandcourier.com. Occasionally, stragglers that lull in warmer pockets of water on the South Carolina coast stay or get trapped.
The operation to relocate the sea cows included officials from SeaWorld and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and took place over three days, from Nov. 28-30, live5news.com reported. Eight males and two female manatees were rescued from the river.
SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Manager Jon Peterson told abcnews4.com nine of the manatees were safely relocated to warmer water and one was taken to the Jacksonville Zoo for care.
One female was kept at the Jacksonville Zoo at its critical care facility because she was exhibiting signs of mild cold stress, live5news.com reported. Officials say that manatee is now doing well.
The public is asked to report any manatee sightings to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. To report a dead or injured manatee in South Carolina, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 843-727-4707 ext. 205.