‘The ocean is full of surprises’: Rare manatee sighting in Rhode Island

A manatee was recently spotted in Rhode Island, environmental officials say, a rare occurrence this far north.

“The ocean is full of surprises,” the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday.

The manatee was spotted in Quonochontaug Pond, a saltwater coastal lagoon in the towns of Charlestown and Westerly. The Department of Environmental Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Mystic Aquarium are all aware of the manatee and are monitoring it.

Manatees can travel hundreds of miles throughout the year. They are rarely seen off the coast of New England, but have been seen here before, including in 2006 and 2016. They prefer warmer waters and typically stay near the Florida Peninsula and Gulf Coast during the winter, expanding their range in the summer.

A manatee was last reported in New England in 2016, when one was spotted off the coast of Cape Cod.

Manatees are protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Today, there are at least 13,000 manatees in the world, about half of them in the southeastern U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Boaters in the area are being urged to use caution and be on the lookout. Environmental officials say people should keep an appropriate distance and should not try to feed or touch the animal.

Any sightings can be reported to the Mystic Aquarium Animal Rescue Hotline at 860-572-5955, Ext. 107.

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