BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is warning boaters to watch out for manatees, threatened marine mammals which have migrated from Florida across the Gulf Coast.
The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries said West Indian manatees have been seen across coastal Louisiana, so the department has posted caution signs at boat launches throughout the area.
"Our primary concern is manatees being injured by boat propellers," said Keri Lejeune, the department's endangered species biologist, said in a news release Thursday. "Manatees are slow-moving, curious animals. If a manatee is spotted while boating, boaters should idle and disengage propellers until the animal is at a safe distance and out of harm's way."
She said the caution signs also provide information to report sightings to Wildlife and Fisheries.
The department is asking the public to report manatee sightings in or offshore of Louisiana so that biologists can track which Louisiana waterways they use and can respond promptly if a manatee is injured and needs help. If people have photos or video, that is welcome.
Reports can be called to the department's 24-hour hotline at 1-800-442-2511, or emailed to Lejeune at email@example.com.
Manatees are native to Florida. During the summer, they sometimes swim toward Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Since they require warm water, those that travel to Louisiana generally begin the journey back to Florida in early fall.