(November 08, 2022) --

A deceased manatee was found on the southern shore of Bear Point in Bayou Saint John. (Courtesy DISL/MSN)

Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Manatee Sighting Network (DISL/MSN) received reports of a deceased manatee in Orange Beach, Alabama on Tuesday, November 1. When the team found the animal there were signs of acute trauma consistent with a boat strike. 

A local resident on the southern shore of Bear Point in Bayou Saint John reported the deceased manatee to the DISL/MSN. Heavy boat traffic is common in the area.  

Partners with the Orange Beach Police Department and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources helped recover the manatee, which was brought to the DISL Marine Mammal Research Center for a post-mortem examination (also known as a necropsy).

“The animal had a series of deep cuts on its back, consistent with propeller trauma,” Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN) Stranding Coordinator Mackenzie Russell explained.  “Other signs of internal injury and blood loss point to a boat strike as the cause of death for this manatee.”

Boat strikes are the leading cause of human-related manatee mortalities in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), but boat-related deaths are on the rise in Alabama.  This case marks the third confirmed boat strike in Alabama waters since 2015 and the fifth boat strike in the northern Gulf of Mexico responded to by DISL/MSN since 2013.  

Prior to 2015, no watercraft-related manatee deaths had been recorded in Alabama; however, in recent years researchers have documented an increase in both manatee sightings and strandings in the state.

“Our data suggest that more manatees are seasonally migrating to the northern Gulf of Mexico coast and staying in the area longer,” DISL/MSN and ALMMSN Director Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael said.  “Manatees are especially at risk of boat strikes during their migrations to and from the northern Gulf during the spring and fall.”

DISL/MSN encourages boaters to keep a lookout for manatees in areas of Alabama and along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, especially in preferred manatee habitats, typically where water depths are shallow and there is abundant submerged aquatic vegetation.  

Designating a manatee spotter on your boat and wearing polarized sunglasses can also help avoid watercraft collisions with manatees.  

DISL/MSN asks members of the public to participate in their research program and help raise awareness for local manatees by reporting sightings to the network via phone at 1-866-493-5803 or online at manatee.disl.org.

For more information on manatees in our area and recommendations on how to safely share our local waterways with these protected marine mammals, visit manatee.disl.org.