Florida residents were shocked to see a manatee swimming in their human-made lake. A biologist thinks she knows how it got there.

Florida residents were shocked to see a manatee swimming in their human-made lake. A biologist thinks she knows how it...

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A manatee in water
The Florida manatee is a sub-species of the West Indian manatee and travels around the Atlantic Ocean.

  • A manatee was spotted in an artificial lake in South Florida.
  •  Manatees can travel through canals and drains, especially after stormy weather.
  • Marine biologists think the manatee should have enough food to survive in the lake.

South Florida residents recently noticed an unusual new neighbor in their artificial lake: a manatee.

Last week, a resident of the Cedarwoods neighborhood in Pembroke Pines took video footage of the marine mammal swimming around, according to news station WPLG Local 10. A couple also spotted the manatee in late June, and they believe it may have had a baby with it.

“This is the first one we’ve seen on the lake,” Bill Barnett, one of the residents who filmed the sea cow, told the news station.

How did the manatee reach an inland lake?

The artificial lake is about 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

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Looking at a map, it might seem like the manatee wouldn’t have a good route to reach the lake from the coast, but there are underground passageways the map doesn’t show.

Amber Howell, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told Business Insider there are large pipes called culverts under the roads.

“The culverts in this area are big enough for manatee to safely swim through,” she said. There is a floodgate in the area that it had to navigate, but it’s often open during the state’s rainy season.

That’s likely how this manatee ended up in its current locale.

Manatees can travel hundreds of miles in search of food

A manatee is seen near a water outlet at an inactive Florida Power & Light Company power plant undergoing renovation in Riviera Beach, Florida in this file photo taken January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files
A manatee is seen at an inactive power plant in Riviera Beach.

Florida manatees, a sub-species of the West Indian manatee, have faced difficulty finding food in the past several years, with hundreds dying annually. Algae blooms that kill seagrass, a huge source of food for the manatees, are partly to blame.

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Though they’re marine mammals, manatees can survive in fresh, brackish, and salty water. And they can roam quite far in search of food and warm water.

Some Florida manatees travel through the ocean around the US, from Texas to as far north as Delaware. However, the mammals also spend a lot of time in freshwater rivers, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Since they prefer shallow water, they’ll often head inland, like this manatee. Finding food in the lake shouldn’t be too difficult, either.

“In this area, there is a lot of shoreline vegetation, which they’ll take advantage of,” Howell said.

Experts have seen manatees in this area for the past few years, so the big visitor isn’t totally unique. “We have absolutely no concern” for this particular animal, Howell said.

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How to help your local, neighborhood manatee

Sometimes people can be a little overzealous in trying to help manatees, Howell said. They might see a manatee in shallow water and try to move it deeper.

But sometimes it’s an exhausted female who’s taking a rest from a nearby mating herd. “It’s the worst-case scenario to push her back into that group,” Howell said.

If Florida residents are concerned about a manatee who seems in distress, they can call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922, Howell said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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