Term of Award

Spring 2007

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Bruce A. Schulte

Committee Member 1

Daniel F. Gleason

Committee Member 2

Sophie B. George

Committee Member 3

Iske L. V. Larkin

Abstract

Natural and anthropogenic factors work together to influence species habitat use. Kings Bay in Crystal River, Florida serves as critical habitat for the Florida manatee, but is also used extensively by humans. This study documented the seasonal dispersion and behavioral patterns of manatees in Kings Bay with regards to natural and anthropogenic factors from May 2005-June 2006. Survey stations were established across the bay and the number of manatees, people in the water, and boats were counted. The behavioral patterns of four major states were recorded using focal animal observations. During the winter, manatees aggregated in areas containing both springs and sanctuaries, where human activity was high and vegetation coverage low. In the non-winter, manatees were most abundant away from springs, where there was higher vegetative coverage and lower human activity. In the winter season, manatee spent most of their time resting in sanctuaries with springs, but when found feeding bouts were longer than in the non-winter season. In the non-winter, variation in behavior was attributed more to the lifestyle roles of different age and sex class manatees than to sub-habitat type. The need for sanctuaries that protect feeding sites during the non-winter season is recommended.

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