Manatee alert: seasonal restrictions begin today through March 31

Manatees range through the southern waters of the US and are most common in Florida. They are migratory and will move north in the summer while congregating in the warmest waters in winter.  Ocassionally one will wander up the coast into New England in summer, but they are rarely seen north of the Carolinas.  They stay healthiest in water that is 68 degrees F or warmer. Manatees can be in salt or fresh water.  They go where there is plentiful grazing and are found in shallow coastal waters, bays, estuaries, rivers and lakes.

This year there were 77 manatee deaths statewide attributed to watercraft.

Florida manatees are large aquatic animals. Their bodies are torpedo-shaped, grey, and only sparsely covered with hair.  Patches of algae can make dark green patches on a manatee’s back, the area most often in sunlight.  They have rounded tail flukes and large flippers with 3 to 4 nails apiece for forelimbs.  Their broad head resembles that of a walrus with small eyes, large nostrils and a cleft upper lip with bristley whiskers.  They can grow up to 13 ft long and weigh 3,500 lbs, but the average size is 10 ft and 1000lbs.

Manatees are herbivores. They use their lips to pull vegetation into their mouths.  They eat all sorts of soft aquatic vegetation.

The manatees’ mating season is variable. Usually one baby is produced every 2 or 3 years, and a mother cares for her offspring for 2 1/2 years.  Babies are born underwater.

Manatees are docile and sociable, often hanging about in groups. They can stay submerged for 24 minutes, but usually breathe more often.  They move slowly, swimming at 1 to 4 mph.

Call the Wildlife Alert Hotline 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC/#FWC, or use VHF Channel 16 on marine radio if you see an injured, dead, tagged, or orphaned manatee, or if you see a manatee being harassed.

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