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 during the winter.
- Follow posted manatee protection zones.
- 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.
- Follow manatee viewing guidelines and always observe manatees from a respectful distance.
- Don’t feed or water manatees. Doing so is illegal and can put manatees at risk.
- Report injured, entangled, orphaned or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC on your cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
- Purchase a manatee decal or license plate and let your friends know how you’re helping support the FWC’s manatee conservation efforts.
- Contribute to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida’s Marine Mammal Fund by visiting WildlifeFlorida.org and clicking on “Support Us,” “Funding Priorities” and “Marine Mammal Fund.”
For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Manatee.