(MOBILE, Ala.) - Dauphin Island Sea Lab Researchers said Thursday that manatees are beginning to dwell in Coastal Alabama waters once again.
Local 15 News rode with Dauphin Island Sea Lab researchers in the northernmost portion of Mobile Bay near the I-10 Bayway and the Causeway. Three manatees were sited there, two of which were tagged by the sea lab.
"About three weeks ago, we placed GPS tags on five manatees that we captured here locally," Dauphin Island Sea Lab PHD Student Allen Aven said. "Actually, this the third time we've done these captures and taggings. We did it in 2009, 2010 and this year.
"We're able to gather very precise location information from where the animals are. So that enabled us to look at their habitat use patterns locally, and, also, their larger scale migration patterns."
Aven said when manatee aren't swimming the waters of Crystal River, Florida, a year-round, warm-water habitat, many are making their home in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
"In our best estimates, we're seeing about 30 to 40 manatees making the trip from Florida to Mobile Bay every year, and, through some of our research, we've been able to establish that, in most part, these are the same animals returning to this are year after year," Aven said.
Aven said the manatee like the shallow, warm waters of the delta, and, of course, the food.
"I liken it to kind of a salad bar for manatees up here," Aven said. "They come up here to the delta, and just have endless options of what they can eat."
Though manatee sightings in Mobile Bay have been recorded since 1930, much more are happening today. Aven hopes his research will determine whether that is due to a bolstered manatee population, or just more awareness.
The Dauphin Island Sea Lab urges boaters who find a manatee to call their manatee sighting hotline. The number can be found under "find it" section of local15tv.com.