From: Associated Press
Published August 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Endangered Manatee Spotted Off R.I.

WARWICK, R.I. — An endangered manatee made a rare appearance in Rhode Island waters during the weekend, a state marine biologist said.

The manatee was seen Sunday in Greenwich Bay off the coast of Warwick. The large marine mammals are usually found only in the warm waters of Florida and the Carolinas. The animal was not spotted Monday.

Manatees eat salt marsh grass, algae and seaweed, said April Valliere, a state marine biologist. Water temperatures have been unusually warm, she said, which probably allowed the manatee to follow food sources so far north.

Judging from photographs, the animal appeared healthy and was drinking from a freshwater runoff pipe at a marina, she said.

The manatee needs to retreat to the south as water temperatures fall, she added. Manatees have died from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, researchers say.

It was not known whether the manatee is the same one seen earlier this month near Manhattan Island in New York. That manatee was tracked as it swam north along the coasts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.

Manatees are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Florida wildlife experts counted 3,116 in their annual survey in February.

Source: Associated Press

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