Attaching tags to manatees, which does not cause harm or
discomfort to the animals, allows researchers follow individual
animals and learn about manatee movements and habitat usage.
Determining animal movement patterns and use of important
habitat is an important aspect of the manatee research conducted by
the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Attaching tags to manatees allows researchers to follow individual
animals without causing harm or discomfort to the animal. A belt is
attached around the base of the tail and connects to a flexible
nylon tether and floating tag.
The tag weighs approximately 5 pounds. While the flexible tether
is designed to avoid entanglement in debris, a machined weak point
in the tether allows the manatee to break free if the tag is
caught. The tag contains a satellite and VHF transmitter. The
satellite transmitter sends signals to receivers on two NOAA
weather satellites in polar orbit. Service Argos processes the
transmissions at receiving stations and calculates the location of
each transmitter. On computer, we can obtain up to four locations
per day on an individual manatee. Directly observing the tagged
manatees, located via a VHF beacon in the tag housing, allows
scientists to document behavior patterns, associations with other
manatees, and reproductive success of females. Unique color band
combinations at the top of each tag are used for visual
identification of individual manatees. Tags occasionally get hit by
boats and sometimes are bitten by alligators. Manatees with tags
behave just like untagged manatees.
Photo credits: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission