Meet Paddy Doyle: The "Irish" manatee at Blue Spring State Park
A photo of Paddy Doyle, taken in January 2015. Paddy is known as one of the feistiest manatees in the Blue Spring population.
by Nancy Sadusky,
Director of Online Communications
Paddy Doyle is a male manatee who visits Blue Spring State Park in the winter. He was named at the request of a visiting researcher of Irish descent who thought it would be nice to have an “Irish” manatee at the park. As it turns out, Paddy does honor to “the fighting Irish” as he is known as one of the feistiest manatees in the Blue Spring population. During three different winter seasons, researchers decided to monitor his movements. Each time Paddy was captured and fitted with his tracking equipment, his spirited nature was evident.
Researchers tracked Paddy Doyle by using a tracking device. In Paddy's day, that meant a VHS transmitter in a belt around his tail. Today's tracking device, also called a "tag," is a transmitter encased in a floating tube. It consists of a belt that fits around the base of the manatee's tail and a four-foot-long (one-meter) flexible nylon tether that is attached to the tracking device. The tag assembly doesn’t harm the manatee or affect freedom of movement, and it is designed with a weak link so it will break loose if it becomes entangled in vegetation or debris. Radio signals sent from the transmitter are received by satellites and analyzed to get location data on the manatee. Researchers get valuable data from tracking manatees, including details of their migration and feeding patterns and other daily behaviors. This information has helped managers decide where manatee protection areas are needed.
Paddy travels in the St. Johns River system, which begins in Central Florida and flows backward – south to north -- approximately 310 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Blue Spring manatee subpopulation, Paddy Doyle was first identified in 1971, so we know he is at least 44 years old. But he’s not elderly yet, at least not by manatee standards. Manatees are capable of living long lives, and it is thought that they can live 60 years or more. Paddy has been a regular winter visitor to Blue Spring State Park for over 40 years, and he’s been known to pop in for a summer visit as well.
Paddy Doyle is present at manatee “roll call,” on most winter mornings, although Wayne Hartley, Save the Manatee Club’s Manatee Specialist, says that sometimes Paddy likes to show up at the very end of roll call or just after. He is easily identified because of the distinctive scars on his back and tail. The scars on his tail, caused by a boat propeller, are graphic reminders that manatees are no match for fast-moving boats.
Paddy Doyle and friend in December 2013.
A social guy, Paddy is often seen in the company of other manatees and has been known to pay particular attention to Phyllis, another Blue Spring visitor. He has also been seen with fellow Save the Manatee Club (SMC) adoptees Deep Dent, Doc, Lily, Whiskers, Philip, Robin, and Floyd.
A year or so ago, Paddy Doyle was spotted in a mating herd behind the Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida. It appears ten males had pursued a young lovely female named Pine. After photos were taken, Paddy Doyle was identified as one of the male manatees. All was okay with the manatees, and they did finally leave and return to Lake Monroe, which connects to the St. Johns River.
When he visits Blue Spring State Park, Paddy Doyle often likes to play around the swim area. This is not a problem during the winter months when humans are not allowed in the swimming area, but if he pops in during the summer, swimmers in the swim area may need to leave the water while he is visiting.
This year, Paddy Doyle arrived at Blue Spring On November 16th, along with Brutus and Flash, and he made 17 recorded visits. Last season, he also arrived a day earlier in November with Nick and Whiskers and departed on February 18th. It was a cold winter last year, and that kept travel down as not as many manatees showed up for the season. During the 2012 – 2013 season, he was seen 22 times at Blue Spring and was one of the last manatees to leave on March 30th, along with Brutus, Philip, and Robin.
Each day, there are numerous dangers manatees face in the wild, but Paddy Doyle has proven he’s a pretty tough guy. We hope he’ll continue to fight it out and visit Blue Spring for many more winters to come.
Be sure to check our Blue Spring webcams at www.manatv.org and get Wayne Hartley's Manatee Updates for the latest news on Paddy Doyle and the other Blue Spring manatees.
This photo, taken on January 20, 2015 as Paddy Doyle rests on the water bottom at Blue Spring, shows the large scar on his back that helps to identify him.