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Manatee Migration Update: February 16, 2000

Today's Report Includes:

Bon Voyage Comet!


"Dear Students,

"One of the manatees that you'll soon be tracking--'Comet'--is scheduled to be tagged and released today!" reports biologist Cathy Beck." 'Comet', a young male, will be released at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida. Bob, Susan, and Jim will all be there. Bob takes blood, measures his fat layers using ultrasound, Jim and Susan will fit him with the belt/tag assembly - all prior to release!

A Mellow Manatee
"Comet was originally captured as a calf in November 1997, when researchers discovered that his mother 'Mercury' had sustained severe injuries from a boat strike. Mercury and Comet were immediately rescued and transferred to Sea World for intensive care. Although Mercury later died from the injuries, Comet thrived. In June 1999, he was transferred to the Columbus Zoo, in Columbus, Ohio, where he became quite the celebrity! They treated him wonderfully at Columbus, even offering him the natural vegetation that he will encounter after release (and he likes it!).

"Comet was transferred back from Columbus to Sea World on February 11th. Three folks from the Columbus Zoo said that Comet slept on his flight from Columbus! He's a mellow manatee. He has grown to 264 cm and 925 lbs (420 kg). Blue Spring will be a superb spot for him to readjust to life as a wild manatee.

The Countdown Continues
"The other three manatees, 'Brian', 'Calista' and 'Xoshi' are still scheduled to be tagged and released sometime later this month, also at Blue Spring. We hope Xoshi will go out next Tuesday, and Calista and Brian are supposed to follow the next week.

"In fact, as we speak, everyone involved with the releases are hard at work coordinating their efforts. Meanwhile, the manatees have been captive at various locations, feeding on lettuce, LOTS of lettuce. In captivity a manatee eats anywhere from 95-140 heads of Romaine lettuce per day! The cost of food alone can range between $50.00 and $200.00 a day, for each manatee. Food is free when they're free. Everyone is eager to have them back in the wild.

"I'll keep you up to date with more news soon. In the meantime, I've sent the latest data for Ivan which you can look at below"

Cathy Beck
Sirenia Project
Gainesville, FL

Take a Close Look

Here are the latest migration data and migration map. As you plot Ivan's locations, you may be wondering just what he is doing. Which leads us to ask the challenge question below:

Today's Satellite Migration Data
(Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey's Sirenia Project)

Challenge Question #3
"Where is Ivan and what is he doing?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

A Record-breaking Season!

Ranger Wayne Hartley

Blue Spring State Park is one of the manatees' favorite Florida hangouts, and it's been another record-breaking year there. Here's the latest from Ranger Wayne Hartley:

"Dear Students,

This is a great manatee season! It got underway on the 5th of November. 132 manatees have been identified here this season. This beats the record set last year of 114. There are twelve calves this season, beating last year's record of ten. Last year only two were female calves. This year it is half-and-half.

"One morning, the count was a record of 112 manatees in the 'run' at once. The previous record was 87, set two seasons ago. Winter boat strikes seem to be down, only fourteen so far. Which leads me to ask you:

Challenge Question #4:
"What reason can you think of that might have helped decrease the number of boat strikes to manatees this winter?"

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Bumper to Bumper Manatees: Ranger Wayne's Roll Call
Each winter, many manatees swim from the St. John's River into the "run" at Blue Spring, which is like a creek that "runs" for 1/3 mile from the park into the River.

Each day, Ranger Wayne canoes into the "run" to conduct his manatee "Roll Call." He identifies each individual manatee and counts the total, measures water temperatures in the "run" and the river, and the high and low air temperatures too. We are lucky to have Ranger Wayne providing us with this unique data for the fourth year in a row.

A sample of Ranger Wayne's Blue Spring data for this season is below. Discuss the changes that you see from one date to another, and then see if you can answer this:

Challenge Question #5:
"Can you see a pattern or trend in Ranger Wayne's data that might explain the changing number of Manatees counted at Blue Spring each day?"


Air Temp High(C)


River Temp (C)

Run Temp. (C)

# of Manatees

11/9 12.5 29 19.5 22.1 11
11/20 14.5 27 20 nt 10
11/29 12.5 29.5 20.5 22.5 17
12/9 12 27 17.8 22.5 48
12/20 8.5 26.5 18 nt 51
12/29 5 21 13 nt 103
01/09 16 30 18.5 nt 12
01/21 13 28 17 23 84
01/29 12 15 12.5 nt 75

*(All temperatures are in degrees Celcius; "nt" = temperature not taken )

(To respond to this question, please follow the instructions below.)

Response to Challenge Question #1:

Hurricane Floyd
(click image to enlarge)

"Plot Knicky's travels between August 31 and September 16, 1999. What international news event reported in newspapers worldwide had an effect on little Knicky during this time period? Why and how do you think it affected her?"

According to Cathy Beck, Knicky's movements were affected by Hurricane Floyd. "On Monday 9/13, with Hurricane Floyd approaching, Knicky began an early morning move west toward the Barge Canal on Merritt Island (along with many boats and other manatees that moved into this somewhat sheltered canal). She remained in the Barge Canal just until the next day, when she moved further west into the Indian River, then began a move north."

Response to Challenge Question #2:
"Using the September 13 and October 5, 1999 latitude readings for Knicky, can you figure out how far she traveled?"

Knicky's September 13 and October 5, 1999 latitude readings are 4.024 degrees apart. By using the worksheets from the Latitude, Longitude and Distance Traveled lesson, you would have been able to calculate that the distance between latitude degrees was as follows:
  • a change of 1.0 degree latitude = 69.00 miles
  • a change of 0.1 degree latitude = 6.9 miles
  • a change of .01 degree latitude = .69 miles

By multplying 69 miles by 4.024, we learned that Knicky traveled a distance of approximately 277.65 miles between these two readings.

Many thanks to the 5 th grade Ontario students, who calculated the distance in kilometers. How close did they come with their estimate?

"Knicky travelled 466.442 km. N and travelled 14.496 km. W. In Canada, we use kilometers, therefore, we multiplied the miles for each degree by 1.6 because 1 miles equals 1.6 kilometers." Lillith Vanian-George & Sarah Little, Scott Young Public School, grade 5 (

How to Respond to Today's Challenge Questions

Please answer ONLY ONE question in each e-mail message!:

1. Address an E-mail message to:
2. IMPORTANT: In the Subject Line of your message write: Challenge Question #3 (OR #4 OR #5)
3. In the body of the EACH message, give your answer to ONE of the questions above.

The Next Manatee Migration Update will Be Posted on March 1, 2000

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