Manatee Manatee
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"Mr. Manatee" Ranger Wayne Greets You

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Ranger Wayne Hartley has been studying the Blue Spring manatees since 1979, and he knows almost every one by sight. During the winter, he canoes into the Run everyday to identify, record and count all of the manatees in the "Run". You can usually hear him greeting them by name, almost like a teacher taking attendance!

It All Started With a Book From His Grandmother
We asked Ranger Wayne how he became interested in studying manatees, and its an amazing story.

I became interested in manatee research indirectly. It goes back a long way. About 1953, my Grandmother gave me a book on North American wildlife, and I would just flip through it and find "oh there's an interesting looking animal", and I'd read about it. And I came to a picture of a manatee and I thought "this can't be right, animals like this can't exist in my country, this is South America, this is Africa, not the United States." And so eventually, I came here to Florida, I became a Park Ranger, and discovered that they were establishing a park over here--Blue Spring State Park--where manatees come for the winter. And I found that to be kind of amazing and interesting. Eventually, I got a chance and I transferred over here.

I was introduced to the researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Federal researchers who were coming down here from Gainesville. The young man from Minnesota, John Bengston, was working on his doctorate, and they had a tremendous reputation for animal tracking. And so they were down here working out how to track animals, manatees, and were actually doing the tracking, which of course now the state and federal people have all taken over all of that, but that got it all started.

So I come in, the researchers are looking for help on various things like vegetation sampling. So I started going around with those guys, John took me up in the plane to track Wonder Woman. She had a working radio, one of the last at that time, and we went up and we did the vegetation sampling. And I started going out in the morning either on my days off or I would come in early when I had late duty.

I would come in, and I was gradually learning the animals, and one of the researchers, Chris Bruegger, wanted to go home for Christmas, and asked if I could do the research or the roll call over the Christmas holiday and they said sure.

There were only 18 animals at that time, there were 26 in that year, but only 18 at the time I was starting. So now there are 153 that we saw last year, and we have numbers issued out, Blue Spring numbers, into the 300's. It's been 21 years.

Why Does He Conduct the Daily Roll Call?
Ranger Wayne

Ranger Wayne's daily roll call is shared with other state and federal manatee researchers, and makes a unique and important contribution.

Ranger Wayne explained why his roll call data is so important:

It's all part of life history, who stays here, and where do they stay in the run. You want to pick up on animals that suddenly come in and go. We've seen animals for 30 seconds and that's it, that's the only time they were here the entire year. And these are very distinct animals, that researchers have a record of in other places and so you get these travel, these movement records, very cheaply with a phone, a camera, a picture.

I'm also looking at recognizing the calfs, so we can keep a record of calf survival. That's important to figuring out how well the animals are doing state wide. Researchers can incorporate these things into their formulas that they use to predict what's really happening with the manatees.

I'm also recording every day any animals with new boat strikes. I don't know if there is any other record to resemble it. And if you could sit down with a computer and really work out how many days the animals were in, and how many animals, and how many boat strikes, you'd get a much better idea of what is happening out there in the river.

Thanks Ranger Wayne for letting students participate in your in your important research!

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