Manatees do not form permanent pair bonds like some animal species. During breeding, a single female, or cow, will be followed by a group of a dozen or more males or bulls, forming a mating herd. They appear to breed indiscriminately during this time; however, age experience of some males in the herd probably plays a role in breeding success. Although breeding and birth may occur at any time during the year, there appears to be a broad spring-summer calving peak.

A manatee mother and nursing calf.
A nursing calf.

The reproductive rate for manatees is low. The age of sexual maturity for females and males is about five years. On average, one calf is born every two to five years and twins are rare. Intervals between births range from two to five years. A two-year interval may occur when a cow loses a calf soon after birth. The gestation period is about a year.

Males assume no responsibility for raising the calf. Mothers nurse their young for one to two years, so a calf may remain dependent on its mother during that time. Calves nurse underwater from teats located behind the mother’s flippers and begin to eat plants a few weeks after birth. Newborn manatee calves are capable of swimming to the surface on their own and vocalize at or soon after birth.

Video from Save the Manatee Club’s webcams of Amber and her calf, when the calf was just six to seven weeks old. The “A’s” on Amber are freeze brands, which are used when a manatee is being tracked and has no other identifying markings. Amber was rescued as a calf, raised at SeaWorld for several years, and then released at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.  (Video ©Save the Manatee Club.)


Please remember to observe from a distance when you spot manatees in the wild and never disturb or separate a mother and calf. Manatee calves need their moms to survive!

Get More Info: