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Lawmaker calling for people to be watchful on the water after manatee deaths

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CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) -

One local lawmaker is calling for locals to be watchful on the water, after two confirmed manatee deaths in Charleston County in one week.

Rep. Chip Limehouse held a meeting Tuesday with representatives from the Department of National Resources following the animals’ death.

“We’re developing a problem.” Limehouse said. “That problem is manatee in S.C. are difficult to see and they have a hard problem getting out the way.”

Meanwhile, the department is investigating after a third manatee was reported deceased Tuesday morning.

Investigators said someone reported seeing the manatee near Awendaw.

DNR staff members are searching for the carcass but have yet to find it. 

The first deceased manatee was found in Shem Creek last Tuesday, and another was found off Sullivan's Island last Wednesday. 

While necropsy results for the first manatee were inconclusive, Erin Weeks, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources, says the 10.3 feet long manatee found off Sullivan's Island had seven deep propeller wounds on its body.

Officials are urging the public to be aware of their surroundings, especially on the water.

“We’ve got more manatee here than in the history of our state,” Limehouse said. “We think there are 100 manatee summering here on our coast.”

According to officials, the endangered animal leaves a footprint pattern on the water’s surface but can be tricky to spot.

“When you’re operating your boat, operating your boat in shallow areas, you want to keep an eye out for manatees,” Phil Maier, with the department, said.

Officers said wearing polarized glasses can help boaters better lookout for the animals, though officials ask locals not to get close.

“Enjoy them from a distance,” Maier said. “Don’t ever approach or touch a manatee. It’s bad for the manatee, and it’s illegal also. Don’t feed or water manatees. It typically lures them into places that are dangerous for them, typically around docks or marinas.”

DNR has posted signs in marinas to keep boaters aware of the marine wildlife in the waters, including some manatee-specific warnings.

Limehouse is hoping officials will add more signs, alerting boaters of transient manatees that could be traveling in the harbor and other waterways.

“We’re not calling for ‘no wake’ throughout,” LImehouse said,”We’re just asking for a boater if they know where they are, slow down.”

Limehouse said any added caution signs would hopefully encourage boaters to voluntarily slow down in manatee-monitored areas, without requiring further regulation.

“Hopefully, no more manatee kills this summer,” Limehouse said.

DNR encourages the public to report manatee sightings via their wildlife hotline at 1-800-922-5431.
 
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