SCDNR: Manatee found off Sullivan's Island killed by boat's propeller

SCDNR: Manatee found off Sullivan's Island killed by boat's propeller
The manatee was discovered early Thursday morning. (Source: Live 5)
The manatee was discovered early Thursday morning. (Source: Live 5)

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources say a manatee found dead off Sullivan's Island Thursday morning died from a boat's propeller.

Erin Weeks, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources, says the 10.3 feet long manatee had seven deep propeller wounds on its body.

S.C. DNR removed the deceased manatee around 11:30 a.m. Thursday that had washed ashore between Station 13 and 16 on Sullivan's Island.

Andy Benke, Town Administrator on Sullivan's Island, says officers responded to reports of a large animal in the water off the 400 block of Station 13 Street at 6:20 a.m.

"On arrival, the animal was identified as a deceased manatee," Benke said.

Another dead manatee was found in Shem Creek earlier this week. Necropsy results for the 9.5-foot-long young male were inconclusive.

"[It's] very unusual. I think the last dead manatee we had was three years ago," said DNR veterinarian Al Segars. "They were necropsied. So certainly unusual. Many people don't even realize we have manatees here in South Carolina."

As a side of precaution, DNR is also taking samples from the manatee found on Sullivan's Island to figure out if something in the ecosystem contributed to the deaths of these two manatees.

Wayne McFee, a spokesperson for the Coastal Marine Mammal Assessments with NOAA, said a crew was scheduled to go out Thursday afternoon to collect water samples in the areas of Shem Creek and Sullivan's Island.

They've also requested feces, urine and stomach samples to be taken from the manatee found on Sullivan's Island.

"It certainly heightens your concern when you have two back to back [deaths] like this," Segars said. "We'll try to find answers if we can."

McFee said water tests may or may not be conducted, depending on the necropsy results.

"You hear about Florida where you have these harmful algal blooms type things where there's actually a toxicity factor," Segars said. "We've seen no reports of that anywhere else."

"I lived in Jacksonville Florida and we had a lot of manatees around, but I don't ever remember manatees showing up dead on the shore," said Brad Jones, of Charlotte, NC.

Segars said there are some similarities between the two manatees, however the one found on Sullivan's Island was worse.

"You can tell intestines were hanging out, the head was actually gone," he said. "The animal Tuesday was actually intact, but very decomposed externally and especially internally."

"I hate seeing a manatee killed like that because they're such wonderful animals," said Kevin Rooney, of Mt. Pleasant.

With these two deaths, officials are now urging the public to be aware of your surroundings especially on the water.

"It's hard to see them," Segars said. "They're not as agile or quick as dolphins. I think the potential for injury is certainly higher."

"It's important to keep an eye out," said Matthew Norton, of Sullivan's Island. "We have a lot of beautiful marine life here, that's why Charleston is just an attractive place to be."

"Just be careful where you're going," added Linda Norton. "Go slow, especially in the intercostal back there because they like to come up."

DNR has posted signs in marinas to keep boaters aware of the marine wildlife in the waters.

There's no word as of yet whether more signs will be posted because of this incident.

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