LONG-TERM TRENDS IN ABUNDANCE AND DISTRIBUTION OF MANATEES (TRICHECHUS MANATUS) IN THE NORTHERN BANANA RIVER, BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA

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Abstract

Four aerial survey projects were conducted between 1977 and 1986 to determine the abundance, density and distribution of West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus), in the northern Banana River, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Manatee density and distribution within selected portions of the 78.5 km2 study area were determined. Peak numbers of manatees occurred in spring of each year. The maximum counts increased from 56 in 1978 to 297 in 1986. Manatee abundance was lowest in the winter of each year. Mean density per flight increased from 0.52 manatees/km2 in 1977–78 to 2.73/km2 in 1984–86. This increase may reflect increases in the east coast population or shifts in the population distribution. Distributional changes were observed in the study area through time, with a lower percentage of manatees occurring in industrial areas and a correspondingly higher percentage of manatees in nonindustrial areas by 1985.

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