Meet A Manatee: Elsie

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

Date: August 24, 2021

Elsie the manatee
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.

Unfortunately, Elsie is easily and instantly recognizable by her badly mutilated tail. Elise 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.

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
Unfortunately, Elsie is easily and instantly recognizable by her badly mutilated tail.

Elsie is available for adoption, and 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. For more information go to Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee page or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

Save the Manatee Club helps support the rescue and research programs that bring new information to you. In addition, SMC works diligently to protect manatee winter habitat. At TECO, 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.

Elsie the manatee
Elsie was first documented by the FWC staff in January 1983.