Remember the trapped manatees? Well they’ve returned to SC this summer

One of the manatees rescued from Charleston. Photo courtesy of Fish and Wildlife services, taken by Terri Calleson. .
One of the manatees rescued from Charleston. Photo courtesy of Fish and Wildlife services, taken by Terri Calleson. .

The manatees that were trapped near Charleston at the end of last year have returned to the South Carolina coastline this summer.

Each year some manatees make a migration north as water temperatures rise, but the drama last year was unprecedented. In 2017, ten manatees were rescued after they were trapped from returning to warmer waters for the winter. Manatees need warm water to survive, if temperature drops too low, the animals could die.

The rescue operation required volunteers to transport all the sea cows back to warmer waters in Florida. During the relocation, they were tagged, which is how researches know this group of manatees returned to the Charleston area.

The manatees “were relocated but some of those animals decided that is where they want to be,” said Andy Garrett with Fish and Wildlife Services in Florida.

Manatees love the warm waters surrounding the Carolinas in the summer — and frequently show up around Hilton Head Island. But it's illegal to feed, water, touch or otherwise harass the gentle giants — and violators could pay a heavy price.

According to Garrett, one reason the manatees come back to the same spot is habit. Baby manatees spend the first two year’s of their life with their mother and pick up a lot of their habits during this time.

That said, they do not always come back. Some manatees choose to head into the Gulf of Mexico instead of up the Atlantic coast.

Every summer manatees come to the Carolinas as the water temperature rises in coastal streams and rivers. While it is common to see manatees migrate to the coast of South Carolina during the summer, they have been seen as far north as Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

In reality, not that many manatees will make the journey north. Garrett said “dozens” make the journey to South Carolina. So ten trapped manatees would be a significant number of the ones outside of Florida.

Fish and Wildlife Service’s Jim Valade said work is being done with local industries in Charleston to make sure the situation last year is less likely to happen again.

While there are plenty of warm weather months ahead for the manatees to enjoy, hopefully when the water starts to cool they’re journey back to Florida will be smooth sailing.

Related stories from Myrtle Beach Sun News