Meet Deep Dent: An explorer who still calls Blue Spring home
A photo of Deep Dent, taken in January 2015 at Blue Spring State Park.
by Nancy Sadusky,
Director of Online Communications
Deep Dent is a male manatee and first appeared at the warm waters of Blue Spring State Park in the winter of 1979. We don’t know where he wintered before that time, but we do know he must have liked what he saw, because Deep Dent has come back to Blue Spring many winters since that time.
You might be wondering how Deep Dent got his name. It’s because he first received a deep “dent-like” scar on his tail. Later, he got another one on his head, and he also has extensive scarring on his back. In the summer of 2010, Deep Dent received another “deep dent” in the middle of his lower back, along with a section taken out of his tail. Deep Dent got these scars when he met up with motorboats and propellers, and he was definitely on the losing side of those encounters. Manatees usually only travel three to five miles per hour, and Deep Dent is proof that they are no match for fast-moving boats.
Deep Dent is known to be a bit shy, and he is somewhat of a loner. This is not unusual for manatees. They are what is called “semi-social” animals and can be found traveling alone or occasionally with other manatees. Manatees sometimes meet in small, informal groups, but they have no leader or real herd structure. When manatees gather, it is mainly due to common habitat requirements such as warm water or food, or for mating purposes.
Another photo of Deep Dent, taken in November 2014, shows the scars that are used to identify him.
Wayne Hartley, Manatee Specialist for Save the Manatee Club who tracks the manatees at Blue Spring, reports that Deep Dent will often hide when Wayne goes out in the morning to identify and count the manatees. He says Deep Dent will try to “hug” the bank of the spring run to avoid the research canoe.
Despite his solitary status, Deep Dent often arrives and departs Blue Spring in the company of other manatees. And when you think about it, that behavior is characteristic of manatees’ semi-social classification because it means they are gathering to seek the warm waters of Blue Spring in the winter or to strike out for better food sources in the spring. Deep Dent has often been seen traveling in and out for the season with fellow Save the Manatee Club adoptees Lenny, Floyd, and Lucille.
Manatee researchers have documented that many manatees have preferred habitats they return to each year. Although Deep Dent appears to have adopted Blue Spring as his primary wintering area, he hasn’t fully committed to the park yet. His desire to travel and see other sites occasionally leads him to skip a season at Blue Spring or to depart early in the season for other destinations. This is not unusual for manatees who sometimes explore alternate warm-water sites in the winter.
In all, Deep Dent has missed a total of five seasons at Blue Spring (three of them consecutively), only to eventually reappear – much to the relief of the researchers and rangers. Using photo identification methods, it was determined that Deep Dent had traveled as far south as the Riviera Beach power plant during at least one of his “missing” seasons. The power plant is located in Palm Beach County on the Atlantic coast of Florida and is quite a long swim from Blue Spring! Wayne Hartley suspects that Deep Dent may have been there additional years as well. On a smaller scale of exploration, during the 2014 - 2015 manatee season, Deep Dent went all the way up to the boil in the Blue Spring Run. No one can recall that behavior from Deep Dent before this time. But, all in all, Deep Dent appears to like Blue Spring as a warm-water wintering area as he has visited the park a total of 36 seasons. This year, he showed up in mid-November and was a regular visitor to the spring run this last winter until he struck out for spring and summer travels on February 21st. We can only hope that he will decide to come back again next year!
Be sure to check our Blue Spring webcams at www.manatv.org and get Wayne Hartley's Manatee Updates for the latest news on Deep Dent and the other Blue Spring manatees.