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Manatee traveler in northeastern waters not Chessie

A West Indian manatee has been sighted in various waters of the northeastern United States in the last 5-6 weeks. It took in the sights along the Hudson River traveling up into Harlem, visited Cape Cod, Mass., and was most recently sighted in Warwick, R.I., in Greenwich Bay.

The question everyone is asking is: Is it Chessie on summer vacation? U.S. Geological Survey manatee researchers have today been able to rule out Chessie as the current traveler through the use of the manatee photo-identification database. Yet the roving manatee's identity is still unknown.

Photographs and video were sent to USGS manatee researchers in Florida, who used the manatee photo-identification catalog to compare scar patterns on the animal with others in the database and ruled out Chessie as the current traveler. Photographs of the mystery manatee do not match any of the existing Florida manatees previously documented for the manatee identification database.

In 1994, scientists photographed Chessie during his rescue from Chesapeake Bay, Md. - and his unique markings and scars - before his release in Florida. Chessie has a distinctive long gray scar on his back, with several small white spots apparent within the scar.

"Since then, Chessie also has acquired tail mutilations, but these are not severe," said Cathy Beck, a biologist with the USGS Sirenia Project. "Reports of manatee sightings far from the usual summer range are of great interest and we appreciate receiving photographs to help us document the individual whenever possible." Beck said.

This manatee still has time to reach Florida waters before the onset of cooler weather. USGS manatee scientists believe that Chessie's migration from Florida to the Chesapeake Bay may have been common for manatees in previous centuries. The repeated sightings of a "sea monster" in the Chesapeake Bay, nicknamed "Chessie," date back throughout this century and possibly include manatee sightings that were not pr
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Contact: Catherine Puckett
cpuckett@usgs.gov
352-264-3532
United States Geological Survey
23-Aug-2006


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