July 25, 2016

Close Encounters of the manatee kind
reported at Hatteras Landing....WITH VIDEO

By JOY CRIST


Visitors to the boat docks that border Hatteras Landing got an unexpected surprise on Friday afternoon, July 22, when a visiting manatee which had been rumored to be hanging around the area made an appearance.

The manatee was first spotted on Tuesday, July 19, and made intermittent appearances around the soundside of Hatteras village on the days that followed. However, many visitors and locals who frequent Hatteras Landing attest that its Friday afternoon visit, which corresponded with the afternoon return of several charter boats, was the most impressive.

Measuring roughly 8 to10 feet long, according to several reports and videos that were posted to social media by local charter fishing businesses, the manatee made a slow cruise through the harbor before pausing to soak up a little cold water from a nearby hose.

According to several folks at the docks, the manatee seemed to love the freshwater hose, and turned over on its belly for a little while as the water poured down. The incident was caught on video by Just Enough Sportfishing and was posted to Facebook. As of Monday morning, it has been shared 267 times and counting.

Though Friday afternoon was the most impressive appearance, several folks at Hatteras Landing said that they had seen or heard about the manatee still hanging around in the days that followed.

“The guy [in the boat slip] next to me has lights on the bottom of his boat, and he says he’s seen it almost every night under his boat,” said one Hatteras Landing mariner.

Glenn Stultz of Twisted Tuna Sportfishing Charters also posted a video of the manatee on Facebook from its Tuesday appearance, and had noticed the visitor several times during the week.

“She was there on Tuesday and then on Friday she came back again,” said Stultz. “The last time I saw one at Hatteras Landing was about three years ago.

“I was at lunch and was walking back to the boat when I saw her. She was by the boat eating some grass and then worked her way back to the Harbor," he said.

“There were a lot of people down there, and when you sprayed water on her, she drank it up,” he added. “She would lay on her back, and when she stopped [getting water from the hose], she would look up like ‘Why did you stop?'”

As of Sunday afternoon, the manatee appeared to have left the area.

“It stopped by Hatteras Harbor [Marina], and last I heard it had gone to Oregon Inlet,” said Stultz.

In fact, reports and videos started pouring in on Sunday afternoon of what could possibly be the same manatee surprising a few anglers along the catwalk off of the Bonner Bridge -- although it could also be an entirely different manatee paying a separate visit.

And while seeing a manatee so close to Hatteras Island is pretty rare, it would not outside the realm of possibility for a manatee or two to show up again in the days or even weeks to come.

“We haven’t had many manatee sightings,” says Paul Doshkov, a biological science technician for the National Park Service. “But it’s not unusual because they seem to prefer those estuary habitats, and during the summer months, will make their way along the coast while going in and out of the inlets.”

“As long as you have these warm water temperatures, it’s not that unusual to see them,” he adds. “They’re seen somewhere along the Outer Banks every summer – usually around the piers – but they also like those inlets. They love all the vegetation there.”

And as for this particular manatee’s love of the water hose on Friday afternoon, Doshkov says this reaction was most likely a learned behavior.

“[It] might have learned this behavior from its southern grounds in Florida. They’ll hang around the culverts, which deposit water into estuaries. There’s a heavy flow of current there, and they can hang around there and forage… so [it] may be associating the hose with that.”

And while it’s fine to take photos and videos, Doshkov cautions against too much interaction. “Absolutely give it plenty of space and try not to interact with it,” he says. “Don’t try to feed them or touch them.”

So with plenty of warm temperatures and warm waters in the immediate forecast, visitors throughout the Outer Banks will want to keep their eyes peeled – while keeping a distance -- just in case a visiting manatee once again resurfaces.






            
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