For Future Generations: Please Keep Your Distance from Manatee Mating Herds

Manatee mating herd
A manatee mating herd. Mating activity often occurs in shallow water, attracting the attention of curious or concerned onlookers.

When a female manatee goes into estrus, she is soon detected and pursued by numerous male manatees. For the duration of this cycle (approximately three weeks), the female can mate with one or more males in what is known as an estrous or mating herd. While manatees mate throughout the year, mating herds are most commonly seen during the summer months.

In shallower waters, the effect can be quite dramatic with churning waters and flailing flukes and flippers. The activity can attract onlookers who are either curious about the commotion or concerned that the manatees in the estrous herd are injured, stranded, or in distress. In fact, this is natural behavior and as with all encounters with wild manatees, it is important to only observe from a respectful distance. Any disturbances to the mating herd may disrupt this natural behavior and jeopardize the reproductive cycle. In addition, adult manatees are large, powerful creatures and interfering with a mating herd is inherently dangerous.

A close-up of a mating herd. The female manatee is easily identified in the middle, surrounded by males.

If you encounter a manatee mating herd:

  • Do not approach or touch any of the manatees
  • Watch only from a respectful distance
  • Know that interfering with the mating herd is considered manatee harassment, and is against the law
  • If you witness others touching or otherwise disturbing the mating herd, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or your local wildlife agency or stranding network

Mind Your Manatee Manners: Tips
More On Manatee Reproduction

For Further Reading

A manatee mating herd is seen from above. The herd is in shallow water at land's edge and several individual manatees can be seen in the agitated water.
A mating herd as seen from above. The activity agitates the surrounding waters and can be quite dramatic.