WILD HUDSON – Manatee (yes you read that right, MANATEE!) Part 5

The massive, slow moving, mammal known as a Manatee (specifically West Indian Manatee) is mainly associated with southern more tropical waters like Florida.  Manatees, like most sea mammals, migrate and a couple have even made the epic journey here to the Hudson River.

The average (West Indian) Manatee, also known as a “Sea Cow” is approximately between 8–11 ft long and weighs 400–1,300 lbs with females being generally larger than males.  The largest recorded Manatee was 15 ft long and weighed in at 3,650 lbs.  The West Indian Manatee is gray or brown in color and its flippers have either 3 or 4 nails so it can hold its food as it is eating.

The “Sea Cow” is surprisingly agile in the water, and some have been seen doing rolls, somersaults, or even swimming upside down. This playful agility may come from the fact that they don’t have any natural predators. The common predators of other marine mammals, such as killer whales and sharks, are rarely (if ever) found in regular Manatee habitats; generally in shallow coastal areas. The Manatee is known to withstand large changes in water salinity, and hasbeen found in shallow rivers and estuaries. It can live in fresh, saline and even brackish water.

A large adult Manatee can consume anywhere from 10% to 15% of their body weight daily. Their diet consists of about 60 different plant species (including sea grasses, their major food source), some fish and small invertebrates. Since their diet consists of mainly abrasive plants, their molars (called “marching molars”) are often worn down and are continually replaced.

In Sailing folklore it is believed that the tales of Mermaids (half woman half fish mythical creature) were actually Manatees.  As you can see from the picture it would seem silly to confuse a Manatee with a Mermaid and even Christopher Columbus was quoted in stating they were  “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” but many a sailor and/or pirate (drunken or not) have told the tale. Although it may seem like folklore, Manatee sightings have happened in the Hudson River.

In July of 1994 a male Manatee was spotted in the northern Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and decided to “hang around” for a while.  On October 1st the Manatee nicknamed “Chessie” (for being found in the Chesapeake Bay) was captured and flown to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and then back to Florida where he was eventually released near Cape Canaveral. In the summer of 1995 “Chessie” once again took the journey north but this time made a visit to the Hudson River, but his journey didn’t stop there he was seen as far up north as Point Judith, Rhode Island.  “Chessie” eventually made his journey back home (without human intervention) being identified in Jacksonville, Florida in November, 1995.

Over a decade later, in August of 2006, there was another manatee spotting!  Many thought it could be “Chessie” again, but after closer inspection of the Manatees “markings” (Scientists identify Manatees much like they identify Whales and Dolphins, buy unique markings and/or “scars” on their tails or other locations) it was determined that it wasn’t “Chessie” but a new adventurous Manatee!  After being seen as far up river as Croton Point, the new adventurer was nicknamed “Tappie” (for traveling past the Tappan Zee Bridge).  Although he didn’t see it for himself, our very own John Vargo (editor and publisher of Boating on the Hudson Magazine) was interviewed and quoted by many publications about the sightings of “Tappie”.

Quoted from the New York Times article “Was that a Manatee or Just a “Fat Log” on August 8th, 2006 by Corey Kilgannon;

“Mr. Vargo, the editor and publisher of Boating on the Hudson & Beyond magazine, insisted that the manatee would stay around Croton Point until water temperatures cooled.

“It has found heaven right there,” he said. “The Croton River empties fresh water into the Hudson there, and you have all kinds of grasses growing on the bottom. It’s the healthiest part of the Hudson.”

Quoted from Fox News Online Article “Manatee Takes Up Residence in the Hudson River” from August 7th, 2006 by Associated Press;

John Vargo, the publisher of Boating on the Hudson magazine, said his alert about the sightings was met with disbelief by some boaters.

“Some were laughing about it, because it couldn’t possibly be true,” he said.

“I’m 70 years old, and I’ve been on the river my entire life,” Vargo said. “I’ve seen dolphins and everything else, but never a manatee.”

“Tappie’s” story made the cover of Boating on the Hudson Magazine in 2006 and was definitely the “Fish Tale” of the year!  Who knows, with the weather conditions being as warm as they have been so far maybe we could see another Manatee this year… or Whale… or Dolphin… or WHO KNOWS!!  The greatest part of the Hudson River you never know who or what will show up next!

If you have a great Hudson River sighting (wild life, boat, weather or anything you think would make a great story!), we’d love to hear about it!  Email our Publisher: John Vargo, vargojhvargo@aol.com or give him a call on his cell at 845-401-2699


New York Times Article: “Was that a Manatee or Just a “Fat Log” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/08/nyregion/08manatee.html?_r=2&oref=slogin

Fox News Article: “Manatee Takes Up Residence in the Hudson River” http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,207280,00.html

USGS Article: “Manatee Traveler in Northeastern Waters Not Chessie” http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2006/09/research2.html

Save the Manatee Article: “Is Chessie Up to His Old Tricks or Is It a Manatee Named Tappie?” http://www.savethemanatee.org/news_feature_chessie.htm

Wikipedia Link about the West Indian Manatee: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Indian_manatee