November is Manatee Awareness Month and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding the public that these large marine mammals are on the move. As temperatures drop, many of the state’s over 8,000 manatees will be on the move, migrating to warmer waters for the winter. During this time it is especially important for the public to be alert and look out for manatees while enjoying time on the water.
Injuries to manatees from boat strikes are more common this time of year, as migrating manatees venture into areas frequented by boats. Boaters can make a big difference by following guidelines and obeying manatee protection zones, which go into effect in the fall, depending on the county. The zones are marked by waterway signs and maps of manatee protection zones are available online at MyFWC.com/Manatee by clicking on “Data and Maps.”
Natural warm-water habitats, such as Florida’s springs, are critical to the survival of manatees during the winter because they can’t tolerate water temperatures lower than 68 degrees. Disturbing manatees at warm-water sites may cause them to leave those areas where they are safe and could put them at risk.
“This is a very important time of year for manatees and we need the public’s help to make sure they get to their warm-water habitats safely and are not disturbed during the colder winter months” said Michelle Pasawicz, manatee management program lead with the FWC. “By going slow while on the water and viewing manatees from a safe and respectful distance, you can help conserve them so future generations are able to enjoy these amazing animals.”
Ways you can help manatees:
Observe manatees from a distance to limit disturbance. Disturbing manatees at their warm-water sites may cause them to leave these areas