MIRAMAR BEACH — What was first thought to be an alligator was later identified as a manatee off of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort on Monday.
Brock Ellis, beach service manager for the resort, said a child saw the creature and called it out.
“A kid said, 'There’s a gator in the water' but I saw its shape and knew immediately what it was,” Ellis said. “I grabbed a paddleboard and paddled out there.”
Ellis said that he sees manatee in the Gulf of Mexico at least once a year, usually in late April or early May.
“About five years ago I swam with seven manatees out here,” Ellis said. “Actually, it was crazy, I got on Facebook yesterday morning and the memory thing popped up with the manatee swim as five years ago, and a year ago I got to kayak alongside a manatee.”
Kelly Richmond of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said that manatee frequent Northwest Florida waters during the spring and summer, and sometimes even mate here.
“This is the time of year the water is warming up, so manatee will travel freely throughout Florida waters,” she said. “They can travel alone or in groups, but usually when they are in big groups, it’s a mating herd.”
Ellis’ coworker Ryan Hershberger caught a short video of the manatee as it swam past Sandestin Monday. The pair said the manatee was making good time and swimming toward Destin out near the second sandbar.
“We see them a few times a year, but the day that we saw them was pretty much the same day almost as last year,” Hershberger said. “This one was just a single one, we saw him right out in front of us and we went down the beach a little ways because he was moving pretty quickly.”
Hershberger said that once he posted the 10-second phone video online, the post got a lot of attention.
“A lot of people that aren’t from here have probably have never seen one,” he said of manatee. “They are pretty rare in general.”
Another manatee sighting was reported in Fort Walton Beach on Tuesday in the Santa Rosa Sound. Jan Boyd spotted a lone sea cow from the balcony of his condo at 200 West around 10 a.m.
“I think this one was a baby, it was not very big,” Boyd said, noting that it was still about 12 feet long. “I was excited because I didn’t know we had them here in the area.”