Stoneman did not return to Blue Spring during the last cold front (all other rehab animals did) and has been observed pacing (swimming circles) during all visual observations since his release. River temp in his location dropped from 21 to 17 Celsius. We consider pacing a stress behavior and usually only observed this behavior for the first couple of days after a release. Stoneman was observed on 2/27/06 pacing in main portions the St. Johns River slowing moving northward with the current while wild manatees passed him going south towards Blue Spring. He did respond and dive to avoid approaching boats but would increase his pacing rate after the boat left the area. The decision was made to capture Stoneman and return him to Blue Spring ASAP. Stoneman was captured on the fifth set just north of the 44 bridge on 2/28/06 and transported by truck to Blue Spring. He was re-released around 3pm. Stoneman soon began to socialize with other animals in the spring and by 3:25 followed one out of the spring and traveled north. He then turned south and went past Blue Spring and settled down in one of the tributaries off the main river. Stoneman was observed in the same area on 3/1/06 and appeared have a diminished pacing behavior but extensive boat response/avoidance.
Stoneman continues to use the St. Johns River between Hontoon Dead River, Lake Beresford and SR 44. He has been observed socializing with other manatees recently and last week was the first time since his release he was not pacing during our observation periods. We still have not observed him feeding though.
Stoneman's tag was recovered on 4/5/06 just north of Hontoon State Park. The tether broke at the weak link, cause unknown. Stoneman's belt was heard still in the area but efforts to retag were not successful today. We will keep trying.
We are also trying to arrange to do a health assessment on Stoneman. After one week of not swimming circles, he began the lovely pacing behavior again last week. We also have not been able to get him retagged due to this looping behavior.
Now the bad new, we have not been able to relocate Stoneman since last week and Kat did not hear him at all today during her search flight. Since he is the most imperative animal to get back at his point based on his "odd" behavior, we would like to do another aerial search survey early next week. Unfortunately, I think this may put us over our line budget amount for aerial surveys. Please let me know if anyone has any major objections to this.
Stoneman's signal was heard briefly on 5/10/06 just north of Blue Spring. Signal was weak and he was not relocated. We are experiencing something interesting in the St. Johns River. Normally this area is freshwater and we receive great VHF signal when a tag is under water and our range for tracking a VHF belt is about a half mile. Since we have had minimal rainfall and the water level in the St. Johns has fallen, the river is more like a salt water environment. A tag can be twenty feet away and in six feet of water and we loose the signal. Salinity at the surface has been maximum 3 ppt. So we are guessing the tannins in the water are creating a conductivity or there is a saltwater gradient further down the water column. What does this mean for finding Stoneman? We are going to have to be right on top of him when he surfaces to breath to even pick up his VHF belt signal. Once the rains start, I think we will be able to relocate him without much difficulty but until then we will concentrate our efforts in the new search area and hope for good timing.
Unfortunately, Stoneman was not heard during the additional tracking aerial survey that was conducted on Monday. The area was gone over again and again without so much as a beep. Thank you to Kat for flying again and sticking it out so long in those areas of concern. We will continue to listen for Stoneman while out on the water in the St. Johns. You never know! I think we should try again once the rainy season has decreased the salinity/conductivity of the river allowing us more listening range into the water column.
Stoneman was sighted with Una on/off for almost two weeks after Una's retagging on 5/31/06 . Unfortunately, we were not able to get anywhere near Stoneman to retag him. We can report that he was not seen pacing at any time and his above water body condition looked good. He was observed cavorting with a group of manatees and even resting close to other manatees. Big behavior change J
Stoneman was resighted with Dundee and Turtle on 7/20/06 and 7/26/06 respectively in Lake Woodruff . His belt was definitely not working. From the brief visuals we had of him, he looked good with no new obvious scars. He was cavorting and socializing with the other animals and could not be picked out of the group unless his belt broke the surface. It should be noted Stoneman swam over 10 miles from his last know location. This big move along with the observed behaviors was very encouraging and indicate he is adapting much better to his new environment.
6/12/07 – 9/17/07:
There have been no new sightings on Stoneman but there was a report of a belted manatees in Blue Spring on 8/29/07 but it was an unconfirmed sighting. It could only have been either Stoneman or Turtle.