Florida Manatee

Go Slow And Look Out Below – Manatees Are On The Move In Florida

Florida Manatee
Source: TFP File Photo

Spring is a particularly important season for boaters to go slow and lookout below for manatees as the slow-moving mammals naturally disperse from their winter refuges, traveling to other parts of the state and beyond.

Manatees depend on water generally warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit to survive the winter, so in the fall, they travel to Florida springs, power plant discharges and other warm-water sites.

In the spring, as water temperatures rise, manatees gradually leave their winter habitats and are more likely to be found in rivers, canals and nearshore waters.

In the news: Wildlife Officials In Florida Rescue Manatee That Was Stuck In The Mud

While manatees are large, they can be difficult to see in the water. That is why it is important to: go slow and follow all manatee protection zones; wear polarized glasses and look out below while boating or using personal watercraft — a visible snout or large circles on the water are indicators that manatees are below the surface; and always give manatees space.

Waterway signs mark manatee protection zones, and maps of manatee protection zones are available online at MyFWC.com/Manatee by clicking “Data and Maps.”

From April 1 through November 15, seasonal manatee zones require boaters to slow down in certain areas to prevent manatees from being injured or killed by motorboats or personal watercrafts. Boat strikes continue to be a major threat to Florida manatees.

In the news: Florida Spring Brings Bats, Bears, Snakes, And More

FWC law enforcement officers patrol state waters to inform boaters of the seasonal manatee speed zones and take appropriate enforcement actions. Boaters are reminded to abide by the regulatory signs they see on the water. 

Manatees are a protected species and it is illegal to feed, harass or harm them. Physically handling a distressed or stranded manatee can cause additional harm. Instead, report injured, distressed, sick or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) so trained responders can assist.

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