What Are Manatees' Natural Predators?
Manatee with propeller scars from a watercraft collision.
A manatee with propeller scars from a watercraft collision. (Photo © David R. Schrichte)

Q. What are manatees' natural predators, if they have any at all? If they don't, why don't they?
--Karli Callahan, Ohio

A. For the most part, manatees do not have any natural predators in the wild. It is often thought that animals such as sharks and alligators would be predators to this slow-moving, easy prey. While manatees, sharks, and alligators do all share the same habitat, manatees do not compete with sharks and alligators for food. Since there is no need for conflict or aggression between manatees and other animals, there is no need for predation of manatees. In addition, manatees are simply too large to be attacked by other animals. There have been a few rare incidents of manatees and manatee carcasses being predated upon by sharks and alligators, but they have mostly been small manatees or calves. The manatee’s only real predator is humans. Humans account for almost 39% of manatee deaths, where the cause of death is known. This includes deaths from watercraft, locks/canals, and other human related sources, such as discarded fishing line. In some places around the world, hunting for manatees is still a part of many cultures. Other non-human related threats to manatees are red tide and cold stress.

--Courtney Edwards
Staff Biologist, Save the Manatee Club

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