Trevluc Leesburg Sunset in the Silver River Sept 2019 (photo credit: CMARI)

A female manatee named “Leesburg” first visited the Harris Chain of Lakes in 2015. She had the distinction of being the first recorded manatee in Lake County.  “Leesburg” became a familiar face in many areas around Lake Harris.  In the summer of 2017, “Leesburg” gave birth to her first calf, a male our community named “Sunset”.   Researchers at Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute (CMARI) have been able to track mother and calf plus several other manatees who have come to make Lake County a part of their home.

Unfortunately, with an increase in numbers of manatee visits comes an increase in manatee deaths.  “It is with a sad heart that we have learned of the deaths of “Leesburg” and her companion “Trevluc” due to collisions with watercraft”, says Amy Stone, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Lake County Water Authority.  “We urge our citizens to stay alert and use care when along the shoreline and narrow waterways as these are the locations frequented by manatees.”

“Leesburg” was the first manatee tagged for the Ocklawaha Manatee Use Study.  “Trevluc”, who was the second manatee tagged in the study, was also extremely valuable to the research community. According to Monica Ross, Senior Research Scientist at CMARI, he was a very social animal and led CMARI to document a record number of manatees in the Ocklawaha River system.

“Leesburg”, “Sunset” and “Trevluc” had become travel companions in 2018. “Leesburg” and “Sunset” were seen monthly in Silver River through March 2019, using Silver River as their warm water refuge for winter.  In early December 2019, “Leesburg” was sited and appeared very pregnant.  Unfortunately, on January 9 of 2020, a citizen called in to FWC and CMARI to report an injured manatee later determined to be “Leesburg”.  Although researchers were able to reach her, she died before they could bring her to shore.  “Leesburg” had a near full term male calf inside her when she died.  The necropsy confirmed she had died of severe injuries due to a boat strike a month earlier.

Since September of 2019, there have been six manatee deaths recorded in the Ocklawaha River system, a fairly high number compared to the size of the local population. Three of the six deaths recorded in the upper Ocklawaha were the result of watercraft collision. One was a prenatal death and the cause of the another manatee was not determined due to un-recovery during Covid-19.

You can help protect these gentle giants by posting someone on the boat to be the lookout for manatees and boat responsibly particularly when in a narrow waterway, along a shoreline or nearing a ramp or other structures.  Never approach or attempt to feed or provide water to a manatee.  Let’s share the waterway!

For more information on manatees or the Lake County Water Authority’s programs, visit or call 352-324-6141.

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