West Indian Manatees
My wife and I live in the Nature Coast of Florida. We have the opportunity to live in an area where a large majority of manatees come for the winter. These lovely adorable mammals also known or called sea cows come into our brackish water and spring fed hiding areas that are connected to the Gulf of Mexico for the winter. The waters in the Gulf get too cold for them during the wintertime so they seek out refuge in these springs. The springs in these areas have a constant 72 degree Fahrenheit water which provides essential warm water refuge for the manatees.
West Indian Manatee
The West Indian Manatee is a very large round grey colored aquatic mammal with a body that tapers to a flat paddle shaped tail. The manatee also has two forelimbs called flippers with three to four nails on each flipper used for eating. The average adult manatee is about 10 feet long and can weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds. The West Indian manatee is related to the West African and the Amazonian manatee.
The life cycle of these mammals may live over 50 years and have a very slow reproduction rate. They reach sexual maturity at three to five years old and they will produce a single calf every couple of years. The pregnancy will last up to fourteen months and the calf remains dependent on its mother for up to two years.
The manatee feeds on aquatic vegetation and can consume up to ten to fifteen percent of their body weight in a day.. When visiting the local wildlife refuge area around where we live the forest rangers will feed heads of cabbage and lettuce to the manatees.
Manatee Children's Book
Threats for the Manatees
Several things endanger the manatee here in the Florida waters. The leading threat to manatees is of course humans and their motor boats. The boat propeller and the boat hull inflicts serious or deadly wounds to the animal. I know when we see manatees in the rivers, we do see some very serious scars on them which I am sure is due to a motorboat running over them.
Another threat to the manatees is the loss of their habitats. Manatees need warm water in order to survive that is why we see large numbers of manatees in the warm water springs here on the western gulf coast of Florida in the winter time. But with these areas disappearing do to developments being built in these beautiful areas the manatees are losing these natural habitats.
Manatees are needing to be left alone, feeding manatees, trying to get on them, riding on the back of a manatee, and harassing them is all things that we should not do. Manatees are gently creatures that float and swim so docile in the water and mean no harm to anyone. These lovely creatures just need to be left alone so no serious harm will come to them.
Red tide off the coast here in central Florida occurs almost yearly. The red tide is very dangerous and deadly to both humans and fish. There was a red tide warning here for the last couple of months. Most of the red tide was off shore about fifty to sixty miles. When the red tide gets closer to shore it then can become very dangerous to the manatees. In 2013 it was the deadliest year on record with over 830 animals dyeing from the red tide. When the red tide comes close to shore the manatee ingest the toxic algae by breathing it in when the manatee comes up for air. The sea grass also dies off due to the red tide which is one of the main food sources for the manatee.
Research of manatees is being done to determine animal movements and habitats. The research is done by several organization and conservation commissions. The research is used to track migration, travel, behavioral factors, and reproductive traits. Satellite tracking devices and transmitters are fitted onto the manatees, the transmitter belt is fitted around the base of the manatee’s tail. The belt assembly does not harm the manatee or affect its movement and it is designed to break loose if the belt becomes entangled in anything so the manatee does not get hurt or drown.
- Florida Manatee | Basic Facts About Florida Manatees | Defenders of Wildlife
Learn about the size, diet, population, range, behavior and other fascinating facts about Florida manatees.
- 5 Great Places to See Florida Manatees| VisitFlorida.com
- Save the Manatee Club
- Florida Manatee Program
Florida Manatee Program