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Florida has always been known as the home of manatees, but recently they have started to take extended vacations from their Florida homes to the coastal waters and join the Alabama wildlife.

Six years ago, Alabama researchers hit a milestone. Dauphin Island Sea Lab partnered with Sea to Shore Alliance who helps support their manatee research program in Mobile Bay, Alabama. They tagged their first manatee, allowing scientists to track the newly found Alabama animal by satellite and radio telemetry. They nicknamed the giant female "Bama." Dianne Ingram is a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alabama Field Office. Ms. Ingram says, "Our goal is to study their travel routes and get data on where they spend time in Alabama. Knowing this will help us learn about their migration patterns and habitat to aid in their recovery."

The average West Indian manatee or "Sea Cow" is approximately 8-11.5 ft. long and weighs between 440 ? 1,320 pounds, with the females generally larger than the males. The largest individual manatee on record weighed 3,649 pounds and measured 15 ft. long. This gentle animal is herbivorous and is usually gray or brown. Its flippers have either three or four nails, so it can hold its food as it is eating.

Manatees are slow-moving and bulky; however, they are also known to be a very graceful animal. They move through the water with the thrust from their powerful tails and glide at 5 miles per hour but can swim 15 miles per hour in short bursts. Manatees need oxygen to breathe and at rest they can be submerged for up to 15 minutes but while they are swimming they need to surface every 3 or 4 minutes.

Since manatees are slow-moving and they are found in coastal waters and rivers they are more vulnerable to hunters which has led to their placement on the Endangered Species List. Even though they are protected by law, accidental deaths are common with the manatees being hit by motorboats and also becoming tangled in fishing nets.

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab would like the public to help by reporting any sightings of manatees to www.manatee.disl.orgm call 1-866-493-5803, or e-mail

It is important to give as much information about the sighting that you can. Location, any distinguishing marks, what you were doing when you saw the manatee, date and time, etc.

The Manatee Sighting Network is now offering special Alabama license plates with their logo, which features a picture of a manatee. 80% of the cost of the plate will be donated to the Manatee Sighting Network.