PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – “Chessie” the well-traveled manatee, is now back in the wild and being tracked by researchers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute.
Chessie has been spotted as far north as Rhode Island, first being seen in the Chesapeake Bay in 1994, a highly unusual place for a manatee to be. The male manatee is estimated to be around 35-years-old and has a scar pattern that makes him distinguishable among other manatees.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, SeaWorld of Orlando and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources rescued Chessie and moved him to the National Aquarium until he could be taken back to Florida, according to CMA’s website.
The mammal continued to move north over the following years, to Rhode Island in 1995 and Virginia in 2001.
Chessie was once again rescued during the 2020-2021 cold spell during what is known as a “Unusual Mortality Event”(or “UME”) on the east coast of Florida. He was found emaciated and swimming sideways, in need of rescue.
The male manatee was released early last week north of Palm Beach. Chessie was fitted with a GPS satellite tag to monitor his movements as he gets around. This is a portion of the aquarium research institute’s northern Atlantic Coast study to better understand manatee movements in the wild.
“It’s really important to track manatees because a lot of times people think the manatees in their backyard [are] the same ones that they see year ‘round. What we have found from tagging manatees is they move hundreds of miles. They use a lot of resources in the state of Florida, as well as outside of Florida,” said a representative from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
“Tagging manatees, we can see these fine-scale movements these animals are doing, so we can assess how are they using habitat outside of Florida in comparison to how they’re using habitat in Florida,” the same researcher said.
Chessie’s movements can be tracked by the general public by going online to CMA’s website.