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Aerial Surveys of Manatees (Trichechus manatus) in Lee County, Florida, Provide Insights Regarding Manatee Abundance and Real Tme Information for Managers and Enforcement Officers

Conservation and management of the endangered Florida manatee is often centered on reducing mortality caused by watercraft collisions. Lee County, Florida, has led the state in watercraft-related mortality for eight of the last 10 years. This county is of particular concern as it contains important habitat for manatees, including extensive feeding grounds and an artificial warm-water refuge where more than 900 manatees have been recorded on a single day. Distributional aerial surveys were conducted from April 2007 through April 2009 over Lee County waters. Surveys yielded higher numbers of manatees than previously observed in this area. Using GIS methodology, kernel density analysis illustrated seasonal changes in distribution patterns and highlighted areas where manatees were most densely clustered. For example, during summer months, manatees were widely distributed throughout the survey area, with high-density areas associated with seagrass beds. During winter months, manatees were densely clustered at warm-water sites and over feeding grounds within close distance of these sites. These seasonal distribution patterns coincide well with speed zone designations. Counts and distributions of manatees were made available, almost immediately if necessary, to local marine law enforcement in an attempt to focus resources toward reducing manatee-watercraft collisions. Future studies should implement similar communication strategies to improve conservation efforts.

Publisher - Springer

Subjects - Conservation; Mammal, Manatee


Citation: Semeyn DJ, Cush CC, Scolardi KM, Hebert J, McBride JD, Grealish D, Reynolds III JE. 2011. Aerial Surveys of Manatees (Trichechus manatus) in Lee County, Florida, Provide Insights Regarding Manatee Abundance and Real Tme Information for Managers and Enforcement Officers. J. Coastal Conserv.; 15(4):573-583 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11852-011-0146-3