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MANATEE AWARENESS MONTH

Moving at just an average of three miles an hour, adult manatees are on the endangered list with problems of entanglements and also collisions with watercraft. November is the prime time for these problems when the sea cows move to warmer waters.

Sometimes called a sea cow, this large aquatic relative of the elephant is usually found in shallow and warm coastal areas feeding on plants like sea grass. Unfortunately, the Florida manatee population is endangered, and these animals face a number of human-made threats. In November, as manatees search for the warm-water shelters once common along the Florida coast, we take this time to raise public awareness of the threats to these beloved but endangered sea creatures.

November has been proclaimed as Manatee Awareness Month, but how much do you know about this odd sea creature? Chances are that if you don’t live in Florida, then not much. So let’s examine the manatee, often referred to as a sea cow, and get acquainted with the wonderfully slow, sweet creature.

For starters, they get pretty big! When grown, the manatee is about 10 to 12 feet in length, weighs about 1,500 to 1,800 pounds and has a good life span in the wild of 50 to 60 years. No wonder they are referred to as sea cows; they are cow-sized, which is no surprise when you learn they are relatives of the elephant.

The Florida manatee is endangered as they face several threats. Manatees start searching for warm water shelters as the temperatures start to dip around November, and this is where a lot of their troubles begin.

Florida residents and visitors are asked to go slow in manatee-prone areas and be aware at all times. Notice the signs along the waterways so you can avoid a collision with these sweet sea cows. They are simply too slow-moving to get out of the way.

Florida manatees, a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee, are an endangered species due to habitat loss, increased boat traffic and harmful algal blooms like red tide. As boaters we can help make a difference for these amazing creatures. Many slow wake zones in Florida have been created to prevent boaters from hitting manatees. By following the law you can help protect an endangered species. In addition to going slow in the right places, have a dedicated spotter looking for circular wave patterns, which are left by the manatee’s tail as it swims. Wearing polarized sunglasses can make them easier to spot. Additionally, Manatees do not handle the cold well and in the winter seek shallower, warmer water. So when boating near power plants, inlets or in shallow areas, be extra cautious!