Meet A Manatee: Dana
This December birthday girl has a playful personality

Dana the manatee
Dana was born on December 2, 1988. We know the date because she was born while her mother, Donna, was visiting Blue Spring State Park near Orange City, Florida. (Photo by Wayne Hartley, FDEP )

Happy Birthday to Dana! On December 2nd, the Blue Spring manatee turned 20 years old. She’s just a young woman by manatee standards, as researchers believe that manatees can live 60 years or more.

We know Dana was born on that day in 1988 because her mother, Donna, was visiting Blue Spring State Park, located near Orange City, Florida, at the time. While Donna and Dana were at the spring run that winter, Dana was known for staying close to her mom. That’s not unusual behavior as mother manatees nurse their young for one to two years, so a calf may remain dependent on its mother during that time.

Once Dana was weaned, she acquired a reputation for being playful and friendly. Ranger Wayne Hartley, who tracks the manatees at Blue Spring, says that Dana seems to like the research canoe and often hangs around when rangers are gathering data on the manatees. She shows her affection by pushing against the canoe, bumping it from underneath, and surfacing to breathe near the rangers – often exhaling right by their face! She’s also pretty curious about underwater photographers.   

The curious manatee surfaces to breathe next to the research canoe. (Photo by Wayne Hartley, FDEP)

Each year since she was born, Dana has come back to visit Blue Spring in the winter. She is identified by scars she has received from boat strikes and by a fungus scar on her tail that she got just a year ago. Dana is social and often comes into Blue Spring and then leaves for the end of the season in the company of other manatees. Favorite friends include Lily, Phyllis, Floyd, Flash, and Nick.

Now a mother herself, Dana has had six calves. Her first calf, Dianne, was born in 1993, when Dana was about five years old, which is typical for manatee females. Dana and Dianne made so many appearances that season that Dana won Ranger Wayne’s Attendance Champion award. Dana’s numerous visits probably have something to do with having a calf because when her son Whiskers was born in 1997, she also put in a record number of appearances. Additional calves include Amy, Brooke, and Ditch.

Just last winter, Dana visited an impressive 22 times at Blue Spring State Park. Once again, her many visits probably had something to do with the tiny calf that accompanied her in mid-November. The calf has not yet been identified as a male or female yet, but Ranger Wayne has named the calf "Dropped."  Dana and Dropped left Blue Spring at the end of March, but we are hoping to see them this year when the weather turns cooler and manatee season begins again. 

Look quick! That's Dana and one of her calves speeding by, followed by Margarito, another Blue Spring manatee. (Photo by Jim Reid, U.S. Geological Survey, Sirenia Project)

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