Department of Natural Resources officers are investigating the death of a manatee discovered in Lake Marion, over 100 miles from the Atlantic Ocean.
Henry Branham was searching for treasure along a beach at Camp Bob Cooper on Monday discovered the mammal bobbing in the water just offshore. He alerted a camp supervisor who called DNR.
"I immediately went to a computer and did some research and learned they travel as far north as New York," said Branham.
But to find them in a closed water system is uncommon. The Department of Natural Resources believes this one got into Lake Marion from the boat locks at nearby Lake Moultrie.
Officers on Wednesday towed the sea cow to shore where it was loaded onto a trailer and taken to a veterinarian who will work to determine a cause of death.
The manatee had visible scars which could be evidence of a collision with a speedboat. Another likely cause of death could be cold exposure.
Manatees are usually found in coastal areas, including rivers, bays and canals. The mammals are known to migrate hundreds of miles and are usually spotted along the South Carolina coast in the summer months. In the winter, the sea cows tend to populate the waters near Florida.
DNR officers say there had been several reported sightings of the manatee swimming in the lake in the weeks leading up to the discovery of its body.
They had been searching for the sea cow, but were able to find it. Even if they had found it, officers say there wasn't much they could have done. Federal law prohibits baiting or capturing manatees.
DNR's Derrell Shipes says there are protocols in place that should have kept this from happening.
"This one got through undetected," said Shipes.
Shipes says the cooler water is the likely cause of death.
"These animals are what you could call pioneering animals," he said. "Unfortunately, they sometimes pioneer into areas where they can't over winter."
It has been years since a manatee has been discovered in Lake Marion, according to DNR.
After performing a necropsy on the sea cow, officials say they will give it a proper burial.
"Its just an act of Mother Nature," said Ed Laney with the DNR. "We're gonna do the right thing and see that it gets a proper burial."
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