Those gentle giants that gracefully glide through Florida’s waterways have a whole month dedicated to bringing awareness to their species.
November is Manatee Awareness Month, which is a time wildlife officials like to remind both residents and visitors to keep an eye out for manatees, 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.
As temperatures start to cool in Florida, more than 7,000 manatees will be on the move, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Officials are reminding boaters to slow down and be on the lookout for the slow and steady sea cows.
Manatees spend their time in warm-water habitats when temperatures drop, like in Florida’s springs. Those areas are important to their survival since they cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 68 degrees for long periods of time. Disturbing manatees in those areas will cause them to leave.
FWC offered the following tips for boaters:
• Follow posted manatee zones.
• 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.
• 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.
• Report injured, entangled, orphaned or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on your cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
• Check out guidelines for boaters and paddlers for more information about how to view manatees safely and respectfully.
• Purchasing the manatee decal and license plate will support FWC’s manatee conservation efforts.
• Contribute to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida’s Marine Mammal Fund by visiting WildlifeFlorida.org
To learn more about manatees in Florida, head over to FWC’s website.