Merlin the Manatee
Animal Stories from

November 2019

When researchers started tracking the manatees at Blue Spring State Park in 1970, Merlin was one of the first manatees identified. In fact, Merlin is one of the manatees seen by Jacques Cousteau when the famous explorer visited Blue Spring State Park in 1970.

Merlin Manatee
Shy around people, Merlin is still curious and seems to like to explore - photo © Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club

Merlin is about 10 feet long, which is average for a manatee. Sadly, what really distinguishes him from the other manatees are the scars he has on his head, as well as the many scars he has on his back and tail, which are from multiple boat hits. Named after the wizard featured in Arthurian legend, some might say that Merlin has led a charmed life as he is lucky to have survived all those boat hits.

Shy around people, Merlin is still curious about the research canoe, which the researchers use to get a morning “nose count” on the manatees visiting the spring in the winter. Merlin seems to like to explore and has been seen investigating throughout the spring run. In recent years, he has wintered at two springs to the north along the Upper St. Johns River and has visited Blue Spring sporadically.

Merlin Manatee
Merlin has many scars on his head, back, and tail. Above, the scars on Merlin’s tail, which researchers use to help identify him - photo © Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club

Because he has been known to arrive at Blue Spring late in the season, Wayne Hartley, Save the Manatee Club’s Manatee Specialist, calls Merlin “Tail-End Charlie.” This is a nickname given to rear-gunners on British military aircraft during World War II. Manatees typically winter at Blue Spring from November through March, although their arrival and departure is temperature dependent. When he visits Blue Spring, Merlin sometimes does not appear until January.

Manatees are what researchers call “semi-social,” which means they are somewhat solitary animals. They sometimes gather in small, informal groups, but they have no leader or real herd structure. Merlin fits the bill as he is known for traveling on his own, but he can also be found in the spring run, hanging out with the other manatees. He is frequently seen with Lily, Deep Dent, Doc, Lucille, Robin, Flash, and Lenny.

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