|Photo © Edwin Remsberg
Case History: Chessie
Chessie is a true traveling manatee. In July of 1994, a male manatee was sighted in the northern Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. This sighting caused immediate interest with both the manatee researchers and the public at large. Manatees will travel as far north as the Carolinas and Georgia. A manatee as far north as the Chesapeake Bay, though, was extremely rare. Thus, Chessie, given his name by the media, created quite a stir and gained the attention of people all up and down the eastern seaboard. By September of 1994, the weather was turning cold, and Chessie was showing no signs of returning home to the warm Florida waters. It is very dangerous for manatees to be exposed to prolonged cool water temperatures. Manatees cannot survive in temperatures below 68 degrees for sustained periods. A rescue needed to occur.
In the last weekend of September, at the urging of Save the Manatee Club (SMC), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) came to attempt the rescue, which took several days. After many hours of hard work, Chessie was captured on October 1st. This grand effort was a real team effort and involved FWS, Sea World Orlando, the National Aquarium of Baltimore and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. SMC provided financial support towards the rescue effort. Once caught, Chessie was flown to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, then flown to Florida by the U.S. Coast Guard and held at Sea World Orlando for a few days for observation. Finally, he was tagged with a transmitter device. This device involves a belt that goes around the peduncle, the base of the manatee's tail. The belt attaches to a flexible tether and a transmitter. This way, the manatee's movements, behavior and whereabouts can be known. (Not to worry, the device does not hurt the manatee and is designed to break away if it becomes entangled.)
On October 7th, 1994, Chessie was released into the waters of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Cape Canaveral, Fl. Throughout the winter, he traveled extensively around Florida. Once the summer came, Chessie headed -- you guessed it -- north. By July of 1995 he was back in the Chesapeake Bay. He continued on his northern adventure, traveling along the Delaware River, Atlantic City, NJ the West River, Long Island Sound, NY and New Haven, CT. He finally went as far as Point Judith, RI. According to Jim Valade, a FWS biologist, before Chessie's trek, the most northerly documented manatee sighting was in the Potomac River. So, Chessie may have well set an all-time manatee migration record.
This time, Chessie did come back on his own. He did, however, lose his tracking device along the way. He was positively identified in Jacksonville, FL in November of 1995. In early 1996, Chessie was spotted by an SMC researcher at Port Everglades in South Florida and was retagged. He has since lost that tag.
In 1998 a manatee was sighted in Delaware and then in Long Island. There was reason to believe it might be Chessie, but researchers were not able to confirm his identity before he was gone again. But in August 2001, Chessie was sighted again at the Great Bridge Locks in Virginia. Since that time, his whereabouts have been unknown. Keep in mind, no bad news has been received, and Chessie is an elusive fellow. We hope he is well and safe and is enjoying his travels, wherever they have taken him.
To adopt Chessie or one of his friends from Save the Manatee Club's adoption program, call our toll free number at 1-800-432-5646 or click here to Adopt-A-Manatee online (you'll find Chessie in the Blue Spring program).