Celebrate Manatee Awareness Month by protecting local wildlife

Without true natural predators, they’re still a threatened species

FILE: Manatee resting at Three Sisters Springs (Crystal River NWR) while shading over a school of mangrove snappers. (Center for Biological Diversity)

Manatees typically flock to Florida in November for warmer water, abundant seagrass and shallow shores.

Due to threats of loss to these coastal habitats and lethal boat collisions, the awareness month was created as part of an effort to celebrate and protect the manatees.

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According to the Marine Mammal Commission, these herbivores live in freshwater systems off Florida’s coast and river systems because they prefer areas near the shore that have plenty of seagrass and eelgrass.

They cannot tolerate temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit for long periods of time, and many of them rely on the warm water from natural springs and power plant channels in winter months.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, new developments that are often built on waterways have destroyed their natural nesting areas. Sewage, manure and fertilizer run offs can also cause algae blooms that poison manatees.

Although manatees don’t have any true natural predators, they are still a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has outlined ways for Florida natives and tourists to protect manatees and be more cautious around the beloved sea cows.

  • Show support by purchasing a “Save the Manatee” specialty license plate. Money goes directly to the Save the Manatee Trust Fund.
  • Help keep manatee habitat clean by cleaning shoreline, beach, park or roadside areas.
  • Check in with local environmental organizations to volunteer or complete a community service project.
  • Obey all waterway signs and avoid traveling in seagrass or other shallow areas via boats.

Test your knowledge with the this manatee awareness month quiz.

About the Author:

Melissa Perez-Carrillo joined News 6 in September.