TECO's Manatee Viewing Center is an opportunity to spend quality time with beloved sea cows

Soon, Florida manatees will be seeking warmer waters and one of their usual hangouts is right in Apollo Beach.

TECO's Manatee Viewing Center will officially open this season on Nov. 1 and will close on April 15, 2023. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will be closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. On Christmas Eve, it closes at 3 p.m.

It's free to visit. For more information on hours, directions, and more on the Manatee Viewing Center, click here: www.tampaelectric.com/company/mvc.

The sea cows have been gathering in the canal – where warm water discharges from the Big Bend power plant – since the 1970s, officials say. Like most Florida residents, manatees cannot tolerate temperatures below 68 degrees for long periods of time. When the temperatures begin to cool, thousands of the gentle giants migrate to warmer waters like the state's springs

In past years, visitors not only see manatees, but they have spotted tarpon, leaping stingrays, and even sharks.

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Back in 1975, the manatee was designated as Florida's official marine mammal. In 2017, they were reclassified from endangered to threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. However, the population has since faced a record number of deaths.