During the January cold snap, many manatees gathered at the warm water effluent of Tampa Electric Company's Big Bend Power Plant near Apollo Beach, Florida. (Photo © David R. Schrichte)

Q. What did manatees do to keep warm in the winter before there were man-made warm water effluent areas?
--Virginia Tobin, Japan

A. Historically, manatees in Florida have relied upon a number of freshwater springs during the winter months. Manatees depend on warm water sites when ambient water temperatures fall below 68 degrees Farenheit. Without warm water, manatees become susceptible to a condition called cold stress syndrome, which can be fatal. As Florida has become more developed, manatees have lost access to some of these springs and the amount of available warm water at other springs has been reduced as human demands for freshwater have increased. When coastal power plants were developed, which produce warm water effluent, manatees came to recognize these sites as part of their winter habitat, and a large number of manatees now use such sites. To these manatees, the power plants are a part of their habitat. However, manatees that inhabit areas of the state with fresh water springs still utilize these springs during the winter months. Natural warm water springs must be protected and sites that have become unavailable to manatees should be restored because these natural sites are a preferred habitat for Florida’s manatees.

--Dr. Katie Tripp
Director of Science and Conservation, Save the Manatee Club

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