Possible manatee spotted at Topsail Beach

Published: Mar. 18, 2016 at 8:48 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2016 at 8:12 PM EDT
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The manatee comes to the surface for air. (Source: L. Rutherford)
The manatee comes to the surface for air. (Source: L. Rutherford)

TOPSAIL BEACH, NC (WECT) - On Thursday evening, a viewer submitted two photos of an animal that appears to be a manatee swimming up to his dock in the Topsail Beach area using our See It, Snap It, Send It tool.

According to Robin Nalepa at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, manatees do travel through our area but it would be early for a sighting this year in terms of water temperatures. Our meteorologist, Patrick Ellis, indicated that the water temperature yesterday would have been roughly 60 degrees.

We also contacted the UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Team to get more information about manatees in our area. William McLellan noted that while it is now quite common to see manatees in this area during the summer and fall, it would be fairly rare for a manatee to be in the coastal waters of North Carolina in March.

Erin Cummings, also with UNCW, says that in March it would be rare to see a manatee since the water is too cold for them. She says that we have had sighting in NC and even a report of a manatee sighting in Virginia during March.

According to Cummings there is no precise reason why a manatee would be in this area now. It is possible that it simply got an early start to the season and came north from southern Georgia or Florida.

It's also a possibility that the animal used a warm water discharge area to stay in coastal North Carolina through the winter and is now venturing out. Cummings, however, stresses that it is unusual to spot a manatee in this area with water temperatures as cold as they are still.

In North Carolina, manatee sightings are most common from June to October in the Intercoastal Waterway. Manatees are large, slow-moving, herbivores that have trouble maintaining core body temperatures in cold waters which can result in stranding. The manatee is an endangered species.

Have you spotted one of these gentle sea cows cruising through our area? Send us a picture:

You can also send us pictures from your mobile device by downloading our news or weather app and looking for the See It, Snap It, Send It tab. We love seeing all of your weather photos, sights around the Cape Fear Area, interesting animal sightings, and of course any breaking news you see happening.

If you see a manatee, give the UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Team a call to report it. Their number is (910) 962-7266.

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