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Siesta Key Thursday, Sep. 15, 2011 6 years ago

Island Beat: Manatees spark light-hearted comments

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

The subject matter was serious, but both Siesta Key Association directors and audience members injected more than a little levity into the Sept. 1 discussion about protecting the manatees in the Grand Canal.

Dave Thomas, a new member of the SKA’s environmental committee, at one point drew some laughter when he mentioned an incident from the previous evening. He was watching TV at 7:50 p.m., he said, when he spotted “an obviously large ripple and splash in the water,” referring to the canal.

The source was a manatee, he said, about 10 to 12 feet long.

“He didn’t want to stop for a drink,” Thomas said. “He just kept going.”

Thomas spoke again, as he had at the August SKA meeting, of how he had been observing a pod with as many as 10 manatees making its way through the canal to graze on the seagrass growing at the furthest point. His visitor the night before, he said, probably was “some guy staggering home from the grass bar.”

Dr. Allan Worms, a wildlife biologist and retired professor, told Thomas the “he” was more likely a “she.” The females generally are larger than the males, Worms said.

Thomas explained that he is “not constantly on a vigil” to spot the creatures.

“I happen to work at home, and I look out the window a lot,” he said.

Later, audience member Shawn Glen Pierson asked whether wildlife or county officials had made any effort to undertake some “social engineering” with the manatees’ movements.

“They go where they want to go,” responded Nancy Deckard, a Gulf & Bay Club resident.

As the group discussed how narrow the canal is in places, making it difficult for the manatees to move far enough away from speeding boaters, SKA President Catherine Luckner drew more laughter when she joked that the canal needs red-light cameras.

Finally, after Sarasota County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson suggested a sign alerting boaters to slow down could be put on the bridge over Midnight Pass Road near the Mangrove Point Road intersection, board member Ann Kaplan added, “Put ‘no littering’ and ‘no living under the bridge’ also” on that sign.

And speaking of the manatees, I received a call last week from a 21-year Key resident who also lives on the Grand Canal. Ernie Buel read my Sept. 8 article about the manatees, which said the speed limit in the canal is 25 mph.

That “is like five or 10 times faster than what people normally do,” he said.

I suggested he call Rachel Herman from the county’s Natural Resources Department, because she had discussed the speeds during her Sept. 1 SKA presentation. Later that day, Herman emailed me to say the speed in the canal is officially “slow speed minimum wake,” which means just enough speed for a vessel to maintain forward momentum.

Apparently, I was still confused about the canal speed after the Sept. 1 SKA meeting. Thanks to Buel and Herman, I am pleased to be able to clear that up for readers and for myself.

Mistaken identity
It turns out that the photo of the solitary snowy plover chick in the Sept. 1 Pelican Press was taken by photographer Mike Mosca instead of Catherine Luckner.

Mosca stopped in last week to talk about how much time and patience it requires to get those adorable shots. He said he also had to keep his camera covered with plastic, so windblown sand wouldn’t ruin his images.

One day, he said, he felt especially rewarded when two chicks climbed out of their nest and looked around. It didn’t take long, though, before Mom and Dad showed up to shepherd them back to the nest.

Luckner said she had not realized she had mixed in a small group of photos from contributors with her own shots.

Because Luckner and her husband, Bob, were among the volunteers who checked nests regularly over the past months, she also had considerable opportunity to photograph the endangered birds.

Moving on
Licensed massage therapists Brent Bullock and Carol Gonzalez have relocated this week from The Massage Store to Siesta Key Massage in Siesta Center. Their first official day was Sept. 12.

Bullock has been working on the Key for 20 years. Gonzalez isn’t far behind her, at 15 years. Both are excited about seeing clients at their new “home.”

They may be reached at 349-8140.

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