SCDNR concerned about reports of people feeding, watering manatees along Shem Creek

Manatee (SCDNR)

They are pretty much harmless, but there is a big concern over the 1-ton animals that make their way through the murky water of the South Carolina coast.

Officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) confirm manatees are chronically fed and watered in the Charleston area, which makes them more susceptible to strikes from boats and other injuries that could be obtained on busy waterways.

SCDNR spokeswoman Erin Weeks said the agency is always eager to get general messages out about manatees. She confirmed an increase in South Carolina sightings can be attributed to migration patterns and warm waters that bring manatees to South Carolina every spring and fall.

With reports of people on Shem Creek providing fresh water from docks to manatees, SCDNR is working to raise awareness of what could be a deadly situation for sea cows.

"Shem Creek is an area of particular concern because it's frequented by manatees and sees so much boat traffic," Weeks said. "Earlier in the season, we also had reports of residents providing fresh water to manatees (typically from hoses off docks) in Mount Pleasant, which is dangerous for the animals (as well as illegal) because it conditions manatees to approach docks, increasing their risk of getting hit by a boat. Across their range, boat strikes are one of the leading causes of death for manatees.

It's currently unknown exactly how many manatees make their way to waters in South Carolina, but wildlife officials believe about 6,000 of the protected animals live in U.S. waters. It's illegal to touch, feed, hunt, or harass manatees.

SCDNR welcomes reports of manatee sightings, which can be shared online, and injured or dead manatees should be reported immediately to the SCDNR Wildlife Hotline at 1-800-922-5431.

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