Back in 2005, the sunny State declared that November be “Manatee Awareness Month”, in protection of the official marine mammal of Florida. And we could not approve more!
Sometimes also referred to as a sea cow, these large aquatic mammals are actually relatives of the elephant! Awesome huh? Usually spotted in the shallows within the warm coastal areas mostly chomping on plants, these beautiful creatures have been known to have been an endangered population and face a numerous amount of human made threats.
Every November, manatees are on the hunt for warm water shelters, this is when we take the time to raise public awareness of the threats that these beloved sea creatures face.
The lovely manatees make up three out of the four species of Sirenia, which you may have heard of in relation to the word siren of Greek mythology – You know, half bird, half women, dangerous creatures, who lure nearby sailors by their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.
But do not fear! A real manatee would never do that! These harmless gentle giants what nothing more than to be left alone.
Unfortunately, not all of us humans quite got the memo. Manatees are often hurt or even killed by collisions with boat hulls, propellers and damage or loss of their habitats.
Even human interaction can harm our beloved manatees. Some people even try to ride these wild animals. These are the types of activities that can not only disturb the creature’s natural routines but also put them in harm’s way.
And we don’t want that! And it doesn’t have to be that way at all. This is why we have Manatee Awareness Month. Making it a no brainer as to why it is that manatees need our help.
What’s a manatee lover to do I hear you ask? Well… If you are a Florida resident – or even just visiting – follow the Defenders of Wildlife’s tips and learn how to respect the manatee habitat. This effort of manatee protection helps fight for slow-speed zones to protect the manatees from getting hit by passing water crafts and protect their vital habitat which these animals need in order to survive.
You don’t even have to be in Florida to help protect the manatees. Why not symbolically adopt a manatee through the nonprofit Save the Manatee Club to really show your support and love to the manatees!
Because, how great are manatees? I would go as far to call it my spirit animal.
Eat all day, chill, eat some more…
Sometimes they grow algae, but it’s all good. Adds character.
People have been known to call these sea cows unintelligent mammals, however don’t let them fool you! Recent research suggest that these sweet creatures are a lot smarter than people make them out to be.
It is said that Christopher Columbus actually once mistook a manatee for a mermaid and wrote that it wasn’t as beautiful as he had expected.
Don’t listen to him, manatees. To us, you’re all beautiful.
Want to learn more about Manatees? Read on below to find out some facts about this beloved mammal.
What do manatee like to eat?
Manatees are actually herbivores. Their diet consists of mostly sea grass and freshwater vegetation. They only have molars which they use to grind their scrumptious greens. As these molars wear down, they fall out and are replaced with new ones.
Where do manatee live?
The manatee population are found in warm waters of shallow rivers, bays, coastal waters and estuaries. It is very rare that individual manatees venture into waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
They take up residence primarily in the sunny state of Florida’s coastal waters during the winter time. Some manatee migrate as far as the Carolinas or even Louisiana in the summer time. And it has been discovered that some individuals have travelled as far north as Cape Cod in Massachusetts before.
Is the manatee population an endangered species?
With significant improvements in its population, habitat conditions and reductions to direct threats, it is with great pleasure to say that it has been declared that as of January 7th 2016 the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the West Indian manatee has been down listed from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is great news, although we are not out of the woods just yet, our manatees are still in danger.
Today’s population is estimated at approximately 6,000 individuals. With this good news it has been said that “Florida boaters are going to take this as a signal that they can increase their speed in manatee zones”. We must continue with our conservational efforts. Florida state numbers show 520 manatees deaths last year, 104 which were watercraft related.
Are manatee dangerous?
Manatees are very gentle, slow-moving animals. They spend most of their time eating, resting, and traveling. An ideal life huh? Like I said, my spirit animal! Like other mammals, manatees must surface in order to breathe air. A manatees lungs are 2/3 the length of its body! They only breathe through their nostrils, since while they are underwater their mouths are more than likely to be filled with food!
Known for their gentle nature, manatees are also known to body surf or barrel roll when they are playing. They tend to normally rest and feed often. They usually rest submerged at the bottom of the water, or just below the surface and come up to breathe around every three or five minutes.
Whilst using up their energy, manatees can surface to breathe as much as every 30 seconds. Although, when they are resting, they have been known to stay submerged for up to 20 minutes.
These gentle giants are able to swim up to 20 miles per hour, but in short bursts. However they usually only swim around three to five miles per hour.
Manatee communicate by making squealing noises underwater to demonstrate fear, stress and excitement.
What do I do if I need to report an Injured or Stranded Manatee?
Please see the below numbers of locations where you can report injured or stranded manatee.
Florida, 1-888-404-FWCC (3922)
Alabama and Mississippi DISL’s Manatee Sighting Network at 1-866-493-5803.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at 1-800-442-2511,
Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-800-9-MAMMAL (800-962-6625).
For all other states and locations, please contact your local wildlife officials.