Wildlife official: Big Lake manatee likely headed back to warmer waters


Big Lake is home to serene boat launches, beautiful lakefront homes, natural wildlife and manatees?   
No, not the latter ... Manatees are the dolphin-like marine animal sometimes referred to as "sea cows." They're native to the Florida region, but early this month, one was spotted right here in Southwest Louisiana. 
This video was shot by Casey Moses, of Big Lake, while he was out washing boats with his guide service. So far away from home, what's a manatee doing in Southwest Louisiana?
Beau Gregory, with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said traveling manatees aren't uncommon, but are usually spotted in eastern parts of the state.
"Like I say, we do get, we estimate, probably a dozen or so every year in Lake Ponchartrain," said Gregory.
Further west, in our area, those figures are drastically different.
"It's actually the seventh record that we have on record in our database of manatees in Southwest Louisiana," he said. 
So, how and why did this creature get all the way here from its native Florida? 
"They have a few thousand over there, so I'm sure it can get pretty crowded during the summers and so, we've got a lot of great habitat here in the state and they're starting to discover that," Gregory said. 
Although this is the last place the manatee was seen, almost a month ago, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries believes it's already made its way to warmer waters.
"This time of the year, it's getting to be too cold for them so they need to migrate back to Florida which they typically do and that's what I feel like this animal is doing ... was probably on its way back," said Gregory.
He said the manatee appears to have made short visit to Southwest Louisiana, showing no real threat to humans or itself.
"We haven't had a need to change any regulations and so, here the sightings are much fewer and more infrequent," Gregory said. 
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