HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina Department of Natural Resources officials are warning people to not interact with manatees.
The Island Packet of Hilton Head reports that SCDNR veterinarian Al Segars says manatees are chronically fed and watered around Hilton Head Island and Charleston, which encourages them to hang around marinas, leaving them at risk for boat strikes.
The department says boat strikes are a leading cause of death for manatees. Segars says high tourist turnover makes it difficult to warn people, and visitors disregard signs.
The South Carolina coast is popular with the sea cows in summer because of their fondness for warm water, and the department has seen increased sightings.
Manatees are protected under federal and state law, and it’s illegal to feed, water, play with or touch a manatee in South Carolina.