MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Have you been seeing more manatees in Mobile Bay lately? Typically manatees migrate back to Florida for the cold winter months. Those trends are changing and it’s becoming more common to see manatees in Mobile Bay during the winter. Unfortunately the outcome is not the best for these sea cows.

“Typically manatees migrate back to Florida during the winter months,” Elizabeth Hieb, Research Technician at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, explained. 

Last Monday, a fisherman reported a manatee in the Theodore Industrial Canal. This is on the westside of Mobile Bay. Dauphin Island Sea Lab partnered with Seaward and FWC to rescue the manatee after showing signs of struggle. Dauphin Island Sea Lab started their Manatee rescue and rehabilitation partnership back in 2007.

“We were able to get out on the scene with the animal very quickly with our veterinarian to access the situation,” said Hieb. “Unfortunately the manatee was very sick and died during transport.” 

The diagnosis was cold stress syndrome. Signs of cold shock in manatees are lesions, which is similar to frost bite in humans, and surfacing longer than normal. Their head could also be shaped into looking like a peanut which show signs of fat and weight loss. One of the main signs that they look for is showing signs of trouble breathing and monitor their respiration rates.

The threshold for being concerned with a manatees well-being is 68 degrees. Sea surface temperatures right now in Mobile Bay are in the low to mid 50s. There has been an increase of Manatees migrating to the northern Gulf Coast, even during the cold winter months

“Sightings of live animals during December January and even February is definitely increasing. As the population grows more manatees will likely migrating and spending more time in this area,” said Hieb. “Mobile bay seems to be a primary place where they migrate too and spend a significant amount of time.” 

A higher population means higher competition for food and leaving the sunshine state. Even though its cold during the winter, the average sea surface temperature is increasing year round. This is convincing manatees to want to stick around.

If you happen to come across a sea cow, head to this link to find out how you can report the manatee.