Florida manatees are beginning their annual migration to warmer waters, which is their instinctual response to winter’s approach and surviving the cold.
As these slow-moving aquatic mammals migrate along rivers, canals, bays and coastlines, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cautions boaters to slow down and watch out for manatees. The average adult manatee is 1,000 pounds and 10-feet long but may be difficult to spot despite its size.
You can help manatees by slowing down and following posted speed zones when operating boats or personal watercraft. Manatees often feed in shallow seagrass beds adjacent to deeper waters,” said Carol Knox, the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section.
"Wearing polarized sunglasses helps you spot a manatee underwater. Also watch for circular wave patterns on the water’s surface – called manatee footprints – indicating a manatee’s presence below.”
Throughout the state, many seasonal manatee protection zones go into effect Nov. 15. Look for signs posted on the water indicating boat speed zones. A “slow speed” zone means a boat should be completely settled in the water, not creating an excessive wake. Go to MyFWC.com/Manatee, and click on Data and Maps to see FWC manatee protection zones.
November is also Manatee Awareness Month, a time to celebrate Florida’s official state marine mammal.
The FWC asks people to report sick, injured, orphaned, entangled or dead manatees by calling the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), texting Tip@MyFWC.com, or calling #FWC and *FWC via cell phone.
Floridians can support manatee conservation efforts by purchasing a manatee license plate at BuyaPlate.com or through their local tax collector’s office when obtaining or renewing a vehicle tag. They also can get a manatee decal at those offices or by visiting MyFWC.com/Manatee and clicking on “Decals.”
More manatee information is available at MyFWC.com/Manatee.