Meet Lily

A frequent visitor to Blue Spring and matriarch of a fourth-generation manatee family

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Lily has been mother to several calves and is even a great-grandmother. In addition, she has been known to act as a surrogate mother to orphaned manatee calves. (Photo © Walker Stanberry/SMC )


Lily is one of the most well-known manatees of the Blue Spring population. First identified in 1974, she has been a regular visitor to the park each winter, where she often spends a great deal of time. Lily has certainly done her part to increase the population of an endangered species. She is the matriarch of a fourth-generation manatee family at Blue Spring State Park.

Lily has been mother to several calves and is even a great-grandmother. She did not bring her first calf to Blue Spring until 1979, but over the years, Lily has had 10 calves: Luther, Margarito, Lillith, Loomis, Cowabunga, Chase, Lars, Louie, Lacy, Lawton, and an unnamed calf in 2009. Not only that, but Lily is a great-grandmother! Her daughter Lillith has had seven calves of her own, and Lillith's daughter, Laurie, has had four calves.

In addition to her own family, Lily has been known to act as a surrogate mother to orphaned manatee calves. One year, she adopted a yearling who tagged around her the whole season. When she left for the summer, the young manatee left with her – still nursing at the time. Another time, Lily took on a young, cold-stressed manatee who was appropriately named Foster. Lily’s behavior is not unusual for female manatees, who will sometimes nurse the calves of other mothers in addition to their own.

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Lily is easily identified by the scar that remained after her bout with fungus (top photo, above right flipper) and the scars from a boat hit (at right). (Photos, top to bottom, © SMC and Walker Stanberry/SMC )
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Lily is easily recognized by her distinctive scars. One of the scars is on the top right side of her back and is from a skin fungus she contracted one year. Another set of scars, located on her lower right side, is the result of a boat hit. The scars are from a “skeg” cut and at least three bad cuts from the boat’s propeller. Many manatees have skeg marks. A skeg is part of a motor on the boat that extends slightly below the propeller and creates a single linear gash. Propeller wounds take the form of a parallel series of slash marks. Most of these injuries leave permanent scars on the manatees that survive these painful encounters.

It has been documented that many manatees have preferred habitats they return to each year, and Lily certainly seems to prefer Blue Spring. In fact, she often vies for the title of “Attendance Champion” with Phyllis, another manatee adoptee who spends a great deal of time at the park. Lily has been known to make anywhere from 20 – 35 visits per season. But although she is nearly 40 years old, she is not elderly yet by any means. In fact, researchers believe that manatees can live to be 60 years old or more. And Lily appears to be able to keep up with the younger manatees. She is social and seems to enjoy the company of many of the manatees wintering at the park. She has frequently been seen with Philip, Phyllis, Robin, Lucille, and Whiskers, among other manatees.

In 2009, Lily came into Blue Spring on November 12th and brought a calf with her. She had not brought in a calf for several years, so it was great to see her with one. Lily and the calf were in almost every day and beat Phyllis out for Attendance Champ with 30 visits.

We had high hopes that Lily would have a calf in tow when she came to Blue Spring this winter. When she left for the season last February, Wayne Hartley, Save the Manatee Club’s Manatee Specialist, said that Lily was obviously pregnant. Manatees had already started arriving at the park in late October, when Florida experienced a short cold spell. Lily made her first appearance on November 8th, but she did not have a calf with her. Sadly, this is not unusual for manatees, who have a relatively high infant calf mortality rate. But we were glad to see that Lily, at least, had arrived safely for the winter. Be sure to check our Blue Spring web cam at www.manatv.org and get Wayne Hartley’s Manatee Updates for the latest news on Lily and the other manatees who are visiting the park.

Lily the manatee at Blue Spring State Park
Lily and Louie, one of her many calves. Over the years, Lily has had 10 calves. (Photo © Walker Stanberry/SMC )

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