As the temperatures drop in the northern portion of the state, our Town will welcome some of our favorite winter guests- manatees! Florida manatees can usually be spotted throughout the state’s waterways, and even up the southeastern coast into Georgia and the Carolinas. But during the winter months, manatees head for the warm waters of South Florida- like the waterways found here in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. They can live in fresh, brackish, or salt water that is around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Did you know Florida manatees, also lovingly called “sea cows,” average about 10 feet in length and weigh about 1,200 pounds? It’s no surprise then to find out that they are related to elephants! Manatees rest anywhere from two to 12 hours a day and spend a third of their day grazing on seagrasses and other aquatic plants. Like other mammals, manatees breathe air. They come up about every five minutes for a breath, but they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes when resting. Florida manatees swim slowly- about three to five miles per hour- using their flippers and tails to steer themselves forward. If you spot large swirls that look like a footprint on the water’s surface, a manatee probably just dove back under the water.
These lovable creatures are protected under the Endangered Species Act and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Manatees can live to be up to 60 years old, but only half make it to adulthood in the wild. Staying in cold waters for too long, colliding with boaters, and ingesting fishhooks, lines, and nets are some of the main dangers for Florida manatees.
So, how can we help protect these gentle giants?
- In Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, manatees have been spotted in the Intercoastal and near Anglin’s Pier. Respect No Wake Zones and Manatee Protection Zones when you are out boating. These zones help protect manatees from collisions with vessels.
- Use caution when paddling near seagrass beds or refuge area boundaries, as manatees like to hang out in these areas. If you spot manatees from your paddleboard or kayak, give them space to move freely.
- Refrain from offering manatees food or water because it can change their foraging behavior or attract them to areas where they could be harmed.
- Consider using snorkel gear when diving near manatees, as the sound of air bubbles from diving gear can frighten them.
- Report manatee deaths, injuries, harassment, and accidents, or orphaned or distressed manatees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at (888) 404- FWCC.
Let’s all do our part to protect our Florida manatees and welcome them to Town! If you can snap a photo from a safe distance, share it with us with the hashtag #LoveLBTS, and we may feature it on the Town’s Facebook and Instagram feeds.
Relax… and enjoy our waterways alongside our winter guests!