TAMPA, Fla. - As temperatures start to cool down in Florida, many of the state's manatees will be on the move. That's why November is Manatee Awareness Month, as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission works to keep our gentle giants safe in the waterways.
Injuries to manatees from boat strikes are more common this time of year, FWC says, as the migrating sea cows venture into areas frequented by boats.
Many of Florida's over 8,000 manatees migrate to warmer waters for the winter, including the state's springs which are natural warm-water habitats. Those areas are important to their survival since manatees cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 68 degrees for long periods of time. Disturbing manatees in those areas will cause them to leave.
“This is a very important time of year for manatees and we need the public’s help to make sure they get to their warm-water habitats safely and are not disturbed during the colder winter months,” said Michelle Pasawicz, manatee management program lead with the FWC. “By going slow while on the water and viewing manatees from a safe and respectful distance, you can help conserve them so future generations are able to enjoy these amazing animals.”
The manatee has been the designated the state marine mammal since 1975. In early 2017, manatees were reclassified from endangered to a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, but conservation efforts continue to this day.
FWC offered boaters the following tips to help keep manatees safe:
- Observe manatees from a distance to limit disturbance. Disturbing manatees at their warm-water sites may cause them to leave these areas during the winter.
- Follow posted manatee protection zones.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to spot them moving, grazing and resting in the water.
- Keep a lookout for the circular “footprints” or ripples they leave on the surface of the water.
- Follow manatee viewing guidelines and always observe manatees from a respectful distance.
- Don’t feed or water manatees. Doing so is illegal and can put manatees at risk.
- Report injured, entangled, orphaned or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC on your cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
- Purchase a manatee decal or license plate and let your friends know how you’re helping support the FWC’s manatee conservation efforts.
- Contribute to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida’s Marine Mammal Fund by visiting WildlifeFlorida.org and clicking on “Support Us,” “Funding Priorities” and “Marine Mammal Fund.”
LINK: For more information, visit FWC's website.