The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has placed caution signs at boat launches throughout South Louisiana advising boaters to be aware of West Indian manatees.
According to a press release, manatee sightings have been reported throughout coastal Louisiana recently as the marine mammals migrate from Florida to Louisiana during summer months.
Caution signs are located from Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes in Southwest Louisiana across the state to St. Tammany, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes in Southeast Louisiana. Manatees have been sighted in Louisiana marshes, as well as freshwater rivers and lakes in the southern part of the state.
The West Indian manatee is a federally threatened species. It is illegal to touch, harass or harm them. Manatees were down-listed from endangered to threatened in 2017 because of an increase in manatee populations and the success of conservation and habitat restoration efforts.
“Our primary concern is manatees being injured by boat propellers,’’ said Keri Lejeune, LDWF’s endangered species biologist. “Manatees are slow-moving, curious animals. If a manatee is spotted while boating, boaters should idle and disengage propellers until the animal is at a safe distance and out of harm’s way.’’
West Indian manatees are native to Florida and do not live in Louisiana year round. They periodically travel along the northern Gulf Coast during the summer months toward Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Manatees need warm water to survive, and do not thrive in water temperatures below 68 degrees for extended periods. Manatees that traveled to Louisiana should begin their journey back to Florida early fthis all.
Any manatee sighting information (with pictures and video footage if possible), should be reported to LDWF’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-442-2511 or to Keri Lejeune here.