Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 21st, 2009
Chesapeake Bay residents, authorities, and visitors may be seeing a new tourist from the South in their area soon, a manatee.
The newly reported endangered marine mammal was spotted over the weekend of July 18-19, 2009, by Officer Marcus Rodriguez of the Havre de Grace Police Department in the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.
The sighting, made Saturday in waters off of Havre de Grace, Md., was confirmed by photos, said Jennifer Dittmar of the National Aquarium, who talked to the Washington Post.
Dittmar, the aquarium’s coordinator for the marine animal rescue program, said the photographs also made it possible to identify the manatee by name: Ilya. Unique scarring on the mammal’s tail made it possible to say he is Ilya, whose documentation dates to 1994.
“That makes this a pretty unique case,” Dittmar said last night.
All of Ilya’s documented history, through 2006, has been in the Miami area, the blog said.
On Saturday afternoon, however, Ilya was spotted swimming among the boats of a Havre de Grace marina. Officer Marcus Rodriguez reported that he “meandered around” for a time, nibbled on some sea grasses and then “just left.”
Ilya was the first confirmed manatee sighting in the bay this year, Dittmar said.
Last year it was reported that two were sighted in a bay tributary near Baltimore, Maryland, noted the Washington Post.
Among the best known of wandering manatees was one that visited the bay several times in the mid-1990s. He was dubbed Chessie, which the Washington Post incorrectly says was “in recognition of his seeming resemblance to the sea monster of Chesapeake lore.”
Actually, the manatee Chessie seems to have been named for its location only, and it was the rare reporter and certainly no cryptozoologists who made any comparisons with the reports of Chessie, the Sea Serpent seen in the region.
Although sightings of “Chessie the cryptid” may go back as long as 70 years ago, the modern era of the cryptozoological Chessie dates to 1978, when a retired CIA employee, Donald Kyker, and his neighbors, the Smoots, saw Chessie about 75 yards off shore. They said it was 30 feet long, sleek, dark gray creature swimming about 7-8 miles per hour. Then in 1982, Robert and Karen Frew allegedly videotaped Chessie near Kent Island.
Meanwhile, confusingly, the media named Chessie, a male West Indian manatee, after it became the most famous out-of-place manatee. It was named due to the Chesapeake Bay where he was “rescued” in the summer of 1994.
Chessie was said to have swum “far beyond the usual range of manatees in the southeastern United States,” according to government reports.
Captured and returned by U.S. Coast Guard plane to Florida, Chessie the manatee was subsequently radio tagged and tracked by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Sirenia Project. He gained new fame in the summer of 1995 by swimming past the mid-Atlantic States, through New York City, all the way to Rhode Island, farther than any manatee had been known to venture. He was sighted in Virginia in 1996 and 2001.
In 2006 and other years since 1994, other manatees have been found farther north than at one time was considered “normal.” You may recall reading of out-of-place manatees here in the Hudson River, New York, and in Tennessee.
So, could manatees actually have a range that is farther north than acknowledged? Is the manatee range expanding? Have past “lake monster” and “sea serpent” sightings been the result of “out-of-place” manatees?