Tracking Sammy G the manatee: Frequent visitor returns to Georgia’s coastal waters

Published: May. 5, 2023 at 3:58 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Many folks in our area are starting to enjoy the water as the weather gets warmer But people aren’t the only ones out there.

Around this time of the year, more manatees are spotted in our region searching for food.

A wildlife technician tracked down a manatee named Sammy G, who is a frequent visitor to Georgia’s coastal waters.

Just last year we found this gentle giant in our Savannah River. Since then, Georgia wildlife officials have been able to tag him, and we are going to see what he’s up to now, let’s go.

Trip Kolkmeyer is a wildlife technician who has been tracking and observing our manatee friend Sammy G since August.

“He stayed in the Savannah area for a little while and headed over to South Carolina. In the fall he migrated South towards Florida spent the winter in Central and Southern Florida and just a few weeks ago this spring he migrated back north and has been hanging out in Georgia around the Savannah River and its tributaries.”

He says although these large sea animals are no longer on the endangered species list, it’s important to track them to get a sense of the overall health of the environment.

But before we started our search.

“So you kinda just want to put it on like you’re putting on a jacket. Put both arms through there and you got the buckle in the front and you just clip that.”

Kolkmeyer says on average it takes about an hour to track down a manatee, but this time around it took us a little over two hours.

He says although they are big, they can be hard to spot.

“We got fortunate we were following a tagged manatee. So the manatee has a belt around the base of his tale with a 4-foot-long tether and a buoy with a satellite transmitter that sits at the surface. Often times like today that might be the most you may see.”

Luckily, we were able to observe what we needed from a distance.

“So today he made us work for it, he wasn’t entirely cooperative. Once we located the manatee he was traveling for the most part. So there was a lot of wind a lot of current so it made sighting a little difficult.”

But the work is worth it, as the information they collect is vital.

“Through these observations, we learn what they are doing when they are in these areas. Then we can use that on a broader scale as it relates to conservation of the species.”

Because he says by tracking these animals day to day, we are one step closer to a better environment.