- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

ST. MARYS, Ga. (AP) - Researchers are trying to better understand how endangered manatees travel through the murky waters near the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base and elsewhere along Georgia’s coast.

Wildlife organizations and scientists from Georgia and Florida are partnering on the project, which aims to map the mammals’ migratory paths and habitat use and also assess their health, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Last week, scientists captured some manatees so they could be outfitted with GPS tracking devices and then released the animals back into Cumberland Sound off the Georgia coast, the Georgia DNR said.

Five manatees are now fitted with satellite transmitters, which will allow scientists to track them as they traverse the Atlantic Ocean.

The technology will allow researchers to identify travel corridors and high-use habitats, Clay George, who leads marine mammal research for Georgia DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, said in a statement.

Wildlife officials say a better understanding of the manatees’ movements in Georgia is important, given the dangers that boats pose to the animals.

The slow-moving manatees swim just below the water’s surface, often putting them on a collision course with watercraft. Watercraft collisions caused 30 percent of the manatee mortalities documented in the state since 2000, the Georgia DNR said.

Each spring, manatees migrate from Florida to Georgia, attracted by abundant marsh grass and other aquatic vegetation. Manatees occur in all tidal waters throughout coastal Georgia from April through October.

Participants in the research project include the Georgia DNR, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, the Georgia Aquarium and Sea to Shore Alliance.

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