Manatees gather at Blue Spring State Park seeking refuge from cold water

Some people worry about proposed changes to manatee protections laws

ORANGE CITY, Fla. – Hundreds of manatees are starting to gather at Blue Spring State Park in Volusia County as they seek refuge from colder water.

Folks big and small leaned over the rail along the state park Sunday, in awe as dozens and dozens of manatees swam beneath them in the clear spring water.

"It's chilling. It bring tears to my eyes. I'm going to start crying," said Sheila Ruff, who's visiting from Missouri.

The spring is a nice 73 degrees, which is why so many sea cows make their way there from the St. Johns River, where they spend most of the year.

However, their return was delayed this year with the unseasonably warmer weather.

But with the colder temperatures expected in central Florida the next few days, Ruff plans on taking full advantage.

"We're going to be here bright and early in the morning," said Ruff. "As soon as the sun comes up where we can see, we'll be down here."

It's been a big week for the gentile giant as the federal government announced plans to reclassify them from "endangered" to "threatened."

Florida's most iconic creature has been on the list since 1967, but after years of research and debate, officials believe they don't post an immanent threat of extinction.

"It's wonderful news," said Ruff. "I just hope people still respect that, and we can move them up another step."

But some worry the reclassification could deregulate some of the laws when it comes to manatee conservation.

Nevertheless, for the folks who came to Blue Spring Sunday, it was a sight they hope never changes.

"To see them like this, thriving, is awesome," said Casey Barrato.

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