Chessie, Come Home

By Fenella SaundersJan 1, 1996 6:00 AM


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Manatees live along the Florida coast--they can’t survive long in water colder than about 64 degrees. But in July 1994 a ten-foot-long, 1,200-pound male manatee was spotted in Chesapeake Bay. Chessie was airlifted back to Florida in October 1994. We thought maybe he was a little lost, explains biologist Kathy Reshetiloff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Apparently not: This past June, Chessie started north again. Nosing in and out of estuaries, including New York’s East River (where he did not linger), Chessie made it to Point Judith, Rhode Island--a distance of more than 2,000 miles and a manatee migration record--before finally turning south on August 16. These pictures were taken six days later in New Haven, Connecticut, where Chessie ditched his radio tag. News after that became spotty, but the FWS continued to issue Chessie Updates (September 8, 1995: Chessie startles a surfer off Long Branch, New Jersey). What lured Chessie so far north? It was a warm summer, says Reshetiloff: If he never encounters any cold water, he’s just going to keep swimming along.

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