Manatee of the Month: Flicker
Flicker checks out a researcher doing manatee photo identification work. (Photo courtesy of FWCC) When you first see Flicker, you can't help but n
otice the many small propeller scars that run across her back. When she was identified in 1983 near Ft. Myers, Florida, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) researcher commented that her scars looked like flickering flames. That's how she got her name. Flicker has had more than one run-in with a boat. Her tail is missing a few chunks from contact with a propeller, and she's also had her share of entanglement woes (more on that later). But that hasn't stopped her from racking up manatee miles on her frequent trips around Tampa Bay.
In the winter, Flicker hangs out at Tampa Electric Company's (TECO) power plant in Apollo Beach, Florida. Manatees can't tolerate water temperatures below 21°C (70° F), and they gather near natural springs or warm water outflow of power plants when the weather turns colder. Besides visiting the TECO plant, Flicker also makes
trips across the bay to the Florida Progress plant in Bartow. After all, she doesn't want to play favorites! Her distinctive scars resemble "flickering flames" and earned Flicker her name
A few years ago, Flicker literally got caught up in some trouble that turned into a real adventure for her and her rescuers. One day, residents of Coffeepot Bayou in Tampa Bay reported a manatee with a crab trap line and a bouy wrapped around her tail. It was Flicker. But the extra additions didn't slow her down. She towed the line and bouy almost 10 nautical miles across the bay! Then she turned north to the Alafia River where she picked up more line and another bouy.
And then she got caught in two mooring lines attached to a houseboat.
By the time the FWCC rescue staff had arrived, Flicker -- who is a big manatee -- had stripped off one of the bouys and almost swamped a law enforcement boat. It took three attempts by the rescue staff (along with a couple of cleats and several planks from the houseboat) before she was free. Both Flicker and her rescuers escaped with no injuries. And she's still continuing to trek across Tampa Bay. In fact, last winter, she was a bay-wide traveler, visiting TECO, the Florida Progress' power plant, and Culbreath Key (across the bay from Florida Progress) all in one year. The winter fluctuated between cold and warm
weather, and Flicker may have decided to hightail it to Bartow when things warmed up a bit. The warm water disperses faster there on the unprotected flats, but lush seagrass beds can be found, so there are always good eats! We're happy to report that last spring Flicker was spotted with six other adults in the Culbreath Isles area -- in an area newly protected by boat speed zones for manatees.
Flicker keeps on truckin' across Tampa Bay. (Photo courtesy of FWCC)