Manatee FAQ: Habitat

Q. How is the increase in water temperature affecting manatees? And seagrass meadows?
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Q.Is it common for manatees to have barnacles?
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Q. Are the manatees in Belize the same species found in Florida? What are the other different types of manatee species around the world? (Click link to get answer)

Q. Where do manatees live?

A. Florida manatees are found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal water ecosystems of the southeastern United States. They can live in fresh, brackish or salt water. Manatees prefer waters that are about one to two meters (3-7 feet) deep. Along the coast, manatees tend to travel in water that is about three to five meters (10 - 16 feet) deep, and they are rarely seen in areas over six meters (20 feet) deep. This habitat provides them with sheltered living and breeding areas, a steady, easily obtainable food supply, and warm water -- all of which they need to survive.

Find out where other sirenian species live.

Q. What kind of animals live in the same area as manatees?

A. Manatees share their habitat with many living things. It is not uncommon, for example, to see a manatee swimming near a tarpon, resting next to a sea turtle, or surfacing beside a brown pelican in a marine environment. Sharks, rays, snook, snapper, flounder, and oysters are found in the manatee's marine environment as well. However, manatees are also found in fresh water. In the manatee's freshwater habitat, you can find river otters and fish such as largemouth bass, sheepshead, gar, and bluegills. You can also find freshwater turtles and frogs. Freshwater invertebrates would include snails, mollusks, and insects. Some species that are found in both freshwater and marine environments include ospreys, bald eagles, alligators, herons, egrets, and snakes.

Q. How far do manatees travel?

A. Florida manatees are somewhat migratory. In the winter, usually November through march, the manatee population is concentrated primarily in Florida. Water temperatures below 21 degrees C (70 degrees F) usually cause manatees to move into warm refuge areas. Manatees are susceptible to cold-related disease, and they congregate near natural springs or warm water effluents of power plants.

In the summer months, manatees are much more widely distributed. They travel freely around Florida's rivers and coastal waters. A few manatees may range as far west as Texas and as far north as Virginia (one manatee was even documented in Cape Cod, Massachusetts), but these sightings are rare. Summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are relatively common.

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