SEASONAL DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT USE OF THE FLORIDA MANATEE (<i>TRICHECHUS MANATUS LATIROSTRIS</i>) IN SOUTH CAROLINA, U. S. A. FROM 1903-2015
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Since as early as 1975, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has been collecting opportunistic sightings of the Florida manatee (<i>Trichechus manatus latirostris</i>) in South Carolina. Despite this long history of collecting and compiling Florida manatee sightings / strandings, no study of sighting trends, habitat use, distribution, relationship to temperature, or mortality has been conducted specifically for the state. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was threefold. First, to develop a regionally extensive record of surface water temperature data along coastal areas of South Carolina. Then to collect, verify, compile, and clean all current and historical records of sightings and strandings of manatees in South Carolina. Finally, these data will be used to increase understanding of manatee distribution, habitat use, and environmental relationship to temperature while in South Carolina. Similar Florida manatee studies were also conducted in North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi, which aids in assembling a more comprehensive picture of the Florida manatee’s entire range. This study can be used in the managing of Florida manatees in South Carolina, and suggests changes in Florida manatee temporal range under a scenario of climate warming. With this knowledge, measures can be taken to further aid in the recovery of the Florida manatee population by identifying and protecting manatees from current and future threats while in South Carolina.