Meet A Manatee: Elsie

Her mutilated tail is a powerful reminder that manatees are vulnerable to collisions with watercraft

Updated: October 3, 2022

Elsie the manatee surfaces to breathe.
Elsie travels along Florida’s west coast and has been spotted in Tampa Bay and the Caloosahatchee River near Ft. Myers, Florida.

Elsie was first photo-documented by staff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in January 1983 as part of a new photo identification program. These first sightings were at the Florida Power and Light (FPL) Company’s Tice power plant near Ft. Myers. Through the photo-identification project, researchers have learned quite a bit about Elsie. For example, Elsie is an excellent mother, having given birth to at least five calves.

In addition to important reproductive information, researchers know that Elsie is a bit of a traveler. Elsie often joins hundreds of other manatees that swim up the Caloosahatchee River to the warm waters found at the FPL Tice power plant in Ft Myers. Other years, Elsie joins the manatees at Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) Big Bend Power Plant in Tampa. She has also been spotted in Old Tampa Bay just north of TECO and at the Duke Energy Bartow Power Plant in St. Petersburg.

Elsie the manatee's mutilated tail
Elsie is easily and instantly recognizable by her badly mutilated tail.

Unfortunately, Elsie is easily and instantly recognizable by her badly mutilated tail. Elsie has also been nicknamed “Fingers,” because the cuts through her tail make it resemble the fingers of a human hand. These mutilations were caused by an encounter with a boat propeller and serve as a powerful reminder that manatees often suffer from collisions with watercraft. Because manatees are slow moving, need to surface to breathe air, and prefer shallow water, they are vulnerable to boat hits. In fact, many manatees, like Elsie, are identified by permanent watercraft scars on their bodies and tails.

Save the Manatee Club helps support the rescue and research programs that help manatees like Elsie, and is a founding member of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership. In addition, SMC works diligently to protect manatee winter habitat. At the TECO Manatee Viewing Center, visitors can tour the education center, walk the mangrove trail, or watch for manatees on the viewing platform. Stop by on a chilly winter day—you may see Elsie and a few of our other adoptees! Visit our Manatee Viewing page for more information.

You can adopt Elsie or other manatees!
Each person who adopts her will receive a full-color photo, biography, and adoption certificate, as well as a membership handbook and subscription to The Manatee Zone, a newsletter featuring updates on the adopted manatees when they are sighted, and Paddle Tales, Save the Manatee Club’s bi-monthly eNewsletter.
Adopt for Myself Adopt for Someone Else Educator Adoption
For more information or to view other manatees available for adoption, visit the Adopt-A-Manatee page, or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).