Officials concerned about roaming manatee on Cape

The manatee that has bounced along the Nantucket Sound coast for nearly four weeks has been making itself at home in Saquatucket Harbor for the past few days, but it already seems to be on the move.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been monitoring the manatee and are formulating a plan with the New England Aquarium to “stabilize” the animal, said CT Harry, assistant stranding coordinator with IFAW. IFAW was also working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to assess the manatee’s condition, he said.

“It doesn't appear like it’s going to go out on its own,” he said.

On Friday, IFAW had a confirmed report of the manatee off Dowses Beach in Osterville, said Brian Sharp, the manager of IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team.

This is the first report outside of Saquatucket Harbor in days, Sharp said, and not having the mammal in a single place may make monitoring and, if needed, a rescue effort more complicated.

Manatees are normally found off Florida and don’t do well with water temperatures cooler than 68 degrees. The water was about 70 to 72 degrees on Tuesday, Harry said.

The Harwich harbormaster has put up signs warning boaters about the manatee, which has made the harbor one of its main stomping grounds. It has also been previously reported at Dowses Beach in Osterville, and Oyster Pond and near Mill Pond, both in Chatham.

Saquatucket Dockmaster Thomas Telesmanick has seen the massive mammal moving around from the east side to the west side of the harbor for the past few days.

“It was just snoozing and floating around, coming up for air,” Telesmanick said Thursday. This summer’s sighting has been the first time Telesmanick has seen a manatee in Cape waters, he said.

On Friday afternoon, Ryan Collins, a fisherman who runs the My Fishing Cape Cod website, was fishing for albacore tuna in the water just east of Craigville Beach. 

“I looked to the left and see this big dark mass,” Collins said. It was the manatee. “It passed by 3 feet in front of me.”

Collins went ashore and with a handful of other people followed it along the beach.
“He was very docile and didn’t seem to mind having people look at him,” he said. “I was curious if it was the same one.”

That thought also crossed the minds of IFAW officials, but it appears that the manatee had just shed some of the algae, Sharp said.

This isn’t the first time a manatee has been seen off the Cape. In 2008, a manatee dubbed Dennis died after rescuers tried to transport him back to Florida by van.