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Celebrating Manatee Appreciation Day in South Florida

Florida Manatee

Celebrating Manatee Appreciation Day in South Florida

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How did you celebrate Manatee Appreciation Day South Florida?

Whether you are looking to make South Florida your permanent home, or are planning a seasonal residency; you will find that we all love our “gentle giants” in South Florida.

Manatee Appreciation Day is held on March 30th. According to PETA®, “Just this year, lawmakers announced that they wanted to update the conservation status of Florida manatees from “endangered” to “threatened.” Manatees have no natural predators, but human-related habitat destruction and collisions with watercraft do pose big threats to them. Because of increased public awareness and work to protect these gentle animals at the state and federal levels, manatee populations in Florida have been making a bigger comeback than the cast of Fuller House. It’s illegal in the United States to kill or harm a manatee. But you know what isn’t illegal? Appreciating manatees.”

Here are a few fun facts about manatees according to Kayla O’BrienContact Reporter for the Orlando Sentinel®, “To celebrate we dug up some facts from the Smithsonian that you can use to impress your friends about these gentle grey giants.

  1. Manatees munch on leafy greens for nearly half the day and can weigh up to 1,200 pounds.
  2. Manatees love Florida for its warm waters. They prefer to swim in 60° or warmer temperatures.
  3. Manatees usually head to the surface to breathe every three to five minutes but can last more than 20 minutes underwater.
  4. The closest living relative to the manatee is the elephant.
  5. Manatees will lose their teeth throughout their lives and just keep growing more.
  6. Hundreds of years ago, sailors were reported to have seen mermaid like creatures while out at sea. Scientists now conclude they were probably manatees.
  7. The average speed of a manatee is between three and five miles an hour but most can swim up to 20 miles an hour.”

So where can you visit these lovely creatures?

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

Blue Spring State Park (Florida Park Service) –
(386) 775-3663
Orange City, FL
(Spring headwater and spring run on St. Johns River)
–Seasonal manatee programs held during winter months when manatees are in warm waters of spring run. Entrance fee.

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish and Wildlife Service) –
(352) 563-2088
Crystal River, FL
(Sanctuaries located in Kings Bay and surrounding waterways)
–During winter, view manatees near warm water sanctuaries via boat or from boardwalk near Three Sisters Spring (with boardwalk viewing on a limited schedule). Vendors offer in-water tours for a fee. Follow USFWS viewing guidelines in this area. During warm weather manatees disperse from the sanctuaries and spread out along the coast—sighting manatees during this time may involve some travel and luck.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park (FPS) –
(850) 561-7276
Wakulla Springs, FL
(Headwaters and river)
–Look for manatees from the park’s diving platform or various areas of the river via park’s tour boats. Fees for park entry and boat tours.

Fanning Springs State Park (FPS) –
(352) 463-3420
Fanning Springs, FL
(Spring and spring run on the Suwannee River)
–Manatees are occasionally present in Fanning Springs. Entrance fee.

Lee County Manatee Park –
(239) 690-5030
Fort Myers, FL
(Orange River and FPL Discharge Canal)
–Hundreds of manatees visit Orange River and canal during winter. Parking fee. Gates close at sunset.

Manatee Springs State Park (FPS) –
(352) 493-6072
Chiefland, FL
(Headwaters and spring run on the Suwannee River)
–During winter, look for manatees in spring and spring run. Entrance fee.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS) –
(321) 861-0667
Merritt Island, FL
(Canal connects Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon)
–View manatees from platform overlooking Haulover Canal. Entrance fee.

Manatee Observation and Education Center –
(772) 429-6266
Fort Pierce, FL
(Moore’s Creek and Indian River Lagoon)
–Open year-round with many programs. Occasional manatee sightings in winter. Entrance fee.

Spring Bayou near Craig and Coburn Parks –
(727) 942-5610
Tarpon Springs, FL
(Sheltered waterway near Florida’s Gulf Coast)
–November through May, manatees visit freshwater spring bayou near small community parks. Parking limited in this historic district.

Tampa Electric Company (TECO) Manatee Viewing Center –
(813) 228-4289
Apollo Beach, FL
(TECO discharge canal off of Tampa Bay)
–Visitor center, gift shop, overlook and boardwalk where visitors learn about and see hundreds of manatees in TECO’s warm water discharge canal.

Wakulla and the St. Marks Rivers –
Panhandle of Florida

–Manatees may be seen by boat or canoe on these scenic rivers during the summer months. Canoe rentals are available on both rivers via SR 98 between Newport and Crawfordville and in St. Marks, FL. Manatees overwinter at either Wakulla Springs or in the Crystal River/Kings Bay area

Manatee Lagoon – An FPL Eco-Discovery Center –
(561)626-2833 (561-Manatee)
Riviera Beach/West Palm Beach, FL

–Opened in February 2016, this new FREE Palm Beach County educational attraction has an observation deck for viewing manatees up close in the warm waters near the Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center. Winter viewing. Education center features hands-on exhibits about manatees and the surrounding Lake Worth Lagoon. Picnic area, gift store, café, webcam, free admission, and parking.

Share your experiences and/or insights on our blog!

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Article by: Jeannie M. Ferrara

Video Courtesy: William Drumm – YouTube®

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