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Manatee Occurrence in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, West of Florida

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Reports of West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) in the US Gulf of Mexico west of Florida have increased during the last decade. We reviewed all available manatee sighting, capture, and carcass records (n = 377) from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas since the early 1900s; only 40 of these were previously published. Manatees were reported most often in estuarine habitats, usually either near a freshwater source or natural or industrial warm-water springs/runoffs during winter months. The recent increase in manatee records may be due to a combination of increased public awareness and dispersal of manatees, most likely seasonal migrants from Florida. We caution that the presence of artificial warm-water sources outside of the manatee’s traditional range may attract an increasing number of manatees and could increase the incidence of cold-related mortality in this region.

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