West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)
Sea Cow (slow grazer on sea grass)
Dugong – Northern Australia and Indian Ocean
West African manatee
Florida and Caribbean – found in fresh, brackish or marine waters (prefer depth from 3-9 feet)
Up to 13′ long and weigh 1,200 pounds (sometimes reaching up to 3,500 pounds or more)
Mammals that can remain submerged underwater for up to 15 minutes
No known predators (other than humans and possible sharks)
No leaders, not territorial, no aggresion (other than in the name of love)
Charm you with their cute whiskered faces and play-fullness
Fast boats (they are slow movers and can not always get out of the way of boat traffic)
Cold water (they are warm blooded and need a minimum water temperature of 68 degrees)
Habitat destruction (loss of the grass flats where they feed)
Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River – If you haven’t been to Three Sisters Springs, you are missing out. It’s a year-round favorite of mine and in the winter manatees come in huge numbers. Kayak or take a boat tour to the springs. I’ve counted over 100 manatees in the area at one time. With a concentration of manatees like this, you can imagine that there’s also a large concentration of people. Remember, be respectful and observe from a distance.
Blue Spring State Park, Orange City – Blue Spring State Park gets my vote for the best “no boat needed” manatee viewing location. During manatee season, the spring and spring run are closed – there are several overlooks and boardwalks along the way. Make a day of exploring the park and watching the manatees. Bring your camera because there are great pictures to be taken and memories to be made.
TECO Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach – Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Centeris a designated manatee sanctuary where tons of manatees return annually to the warm discharge waters of the Big Bend Power Station. Viewing platforms, tidal walkways, and an environmental education center are located at this 50-acre facility.
Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers – Located across from Florida Power and Light and directly on the warm water discharge canal, Manatee Park is another wintertime haven where large concentrations of manatees can be seen. Several viewing areas, a butterfly garden, and picnic shelters are available.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville – The Haulover Canal connects Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River, and on the east side of the bridge is a manatee observation area. Viewing platforms, interpretive signage, a boat ramp, and polarized viewer are located at the observation area.
Manatee information and photos/video provided by: Celena Chalkley-originally of Native Roots
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