MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCBD)- A group of visitors got quite the surprise during a Saturday morning visit to a Berkeley County park.

Officials said visitors spotted a West Indian manatee by the floating dock at Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner.

“These gentle giants are an annual, but uncommon, visitor this far up the Cooper River in the summer,” a post on the park’s Facebook page said.

Although observed in South Carolina since 1850, SCDNR records indicate that manatees are a rare visitor to the Palmetto State.

Park Director Brad Sale said manatees are typically seen only once or twice a year at Old Santee Canal Park.

“Manatees are warm, shallow water-loving mammals, which makes July and August the best months for them to migrate up the coast and into the Cooper River,” Sale said.

According to SCDNR, the exact count of South Carolina’s manatee population is unknown due to the state’s murky waters. Still, it is a small fraction of the United States’ total estimated population of 6,600 animals, most of which are in Florida.

West Indian manatees, sometimes referred to as “sea cows,” typically reach around ten feet in length and weigh between 800 to 1,200 pounds.

In light of Saturday’s sighting, park officials are urging visitors to be extra cautious when boating in the Cooper River and Tailrace Canal.

You can report a manatee spotting to SCDNR using this form.