It’s no secret that manatees have been spending some time in Rudee Inlet (thanks for the photograph, Ashley Keech).

There’s also one in Lynnhaven Inlet… and these are just the ones we know about.

The fact that this way-southern-based species has been tracking north over the years isn’t shocking. Anglers have been catching more tropical species like triple tail the last several years. What these species, especially the federally-protected manatee, do is shed light on the boating community’s responsibility while out on the water. Manatees aren’t the only hazard out there.

“Their presence should bring a heightened sense of awareness,” said Skip Miller, whose family runs the head boat fleet out of the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. For instance, after severe weather, all sorts of stuff can be floating around area waterways, and usually, it takes on the iceberg theory where most of it is probably underwater where it’s hard to see. Piece of old piers, fallen timber, oil drums… keep the list going, people. But you get it.

A cracked hull or bent screw (propeller) could ruin a great day on the water – or maybe even worse. Be vigilant and keep a sharp eye on the surface. When you have company – and you always should for safety – have another pair or two of eyes trained on the water.

More on the manatee: They’re federally protected and it’s against the law to touch or attempt to swim with them. Don’t feed them because they will have a tendency to stay in the area, something we don’t want when waters get colder. And to not give them fresh water out of a hose for the same reason. They get their water from the vegetation they eat. These mammals are extremely curious, so take your picture, then walk away.

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