The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has placed caution signs at boat launches throughout south Louisiana advising boaters to be aware of West Indian manatees. Manatee sightings have been reported throughout coastal Louisiana as these marine mammals migrate from Florida to Louisiana during summer months.
The caution signs are located from Cameron and Calcasieu parishes in southwest Louisiana across the state to St. Tammany, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes in southeast Louisiana. Manatees have been seen in Louisiana marshes, as well as freshwater rivers and lakes in the southern part of the state.
The West Indian manatee is a federally threatened species. It is illegal to touch, harass, or harm them. Manatees were down-listed from endangered to threatened in 2017 because of an increase in manatee populations and the success of conservation and habitat restoration efforts.
“Our primary concern is manatees being injured by boat propellers,’’ said Keri Lejeune, LDWF’s Endangered Species Biologist. “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.’’
West Indian manatees do not live in Louisiana year round. They are a transient species in Louisiana and native to Florida. They periodically travel along the northern Gulf Coast from Florida during the summer months toward Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and may spend some time during the summer in Louisiana.
Manatees need warm water to survive and do not thrive well in water temperatures below 68 degrees for extended periods of time. Manatees that travel to Louisiana should begin the journey back to Florida in early fall.
Any manatee sighting information, with pictures and video footage, if possible, should be reported to LDWF’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-442-2511 or to Keri Lejeune, Endangered Species Biologist, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sighting information allows LDWF biologists to track waterways in Louisiana that are used by manatees and to respond promptly if a manatee is injured and for potential rescue efforts.