Water-Related News

One of first manatees spotted in Lake County gives birth to calf

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One of the first recorded manatees in Lake County has braved river locks, alligator bites and boat propellers to continue calling the inland county home.

Now, the mammal dubbed Leesburg, after the city near where she was first seen in 2015, is further pioneering the Harris Chain of Lakes as a manatee habitat. Officials don’t know why she’s chosen the lakes not just as her home but the place to raise her newborn calf.

Leesburg gave birth last month in Lake Eustis, bringing the known manatee population in Lake to two. She was first spotted alongside another manatee, which later died.

“Nobody knows who the father is,” said Ron Hart, the Lake County Water Authority’s water resources program director, who has been closely tracking Leesburg for two years. The authority is taking suggestions on a name for the calf of unknown gender and wants boaters to be cautious as the family gets settled.

In the coming months, Leesburg will teach her baby where to munch on water hyacinth and hydrilla. When winter comes, she will show him or her the springs in the Harris Chain, where the water is warmer.

Manatees are normally in warmer waters closer to the coast, including at Blue Spring State Park in Volusia County and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Brevard County.

“This is her first calf, and she’s a new mom, and we don’t know if she’ll continue her regular behavior,” Hart said.