Rhode Island is being paid a rare visit by a manatee, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
One of the so-called "sea cows," which typically prefer the warmer waters of Florida, was recently spotted in Quonochontaug Pond, which is in Charlestown and Westerly, the DEM said.
"Manatees can travel hundreds of miles throughout the year, and while they are rarely found in the (Ocean State) they have been seen in our waters before, including in 2006 and 2016," the DEM said on Facebook.
Manatees average 10 feet long and 1,200 pounds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They're also related to elephants, NOAA says.
"Don't let their size fool you: manatees are actually incredibly graceful creatures," NOAA says.
Vulnerable to extinction due to loss of habitat and collisions with boats and ships, manatees are protected by the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.
"We ask that the public protect this visitor by keeping an appropriate distance. Slowing down and giving marine wildlife space helps reduce the chances of collisions," the DEM said. "Boaters in the area should use caution and be on the lookout for the manatee, if you see the animal keep a no-wake speed until it is a safe distance from your boat. Please do not attempt to feed or touch the manatee and always maintain a safe distance of at least 150 feet away."
Sightings can be reported to the Mystic Aquarium Animal Rescue Hotline at (860) 572-5955 ext. 107.
According to the DEM, manatees live in brackish and freshwater coastal areas.
"Preferring warmer waters, they typically stay near the Florida Peninsula and Gulf Coast during the winter months but expand their range in the summer," the DEM said. "The last time a manatee was reported in southern New England was in 2016 when a manatee was spotted off the coast of Cape Cod."
A manatee was also reported off Cape Cod in 2006, 2008, 2009, according to published reports.
"The ocean is full of surprises," the DEM post said.
The DEM said more guidelines and tips on viewing marine life safely and respectfully is available at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/.../guidelines-&-distances. More information on manatees is available at https://www.fws.gov/species/manatee-trichechus-manatus.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: DEM: Be courteous, give lots of room to guest manatee