Manatees and Hurricanes

August 30, 2023: Save the Manatee Club (SMC), alongside our partners from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership, is actively monitoring the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia. As Florida natives, manatees are well-adapted to the extreme weather events in our state. However, they do face significant risk during powerful storms. Storm surges can cause manatees to go far inland to areas they would not normally inhabit, where they can become trapped when the water recedes. Even in areas that are typical manatee habitat, such as Tampa Bay, Crystal River, and the Big Bend region, waters that recede to irregularly low levels can also leave manatees stranded.

“SMC will be in communication with our partners in the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership to ensure that any injured or stranded manatees are rescued and rehabilitated after catastrophic storms. Once it is safe to do so, we also encourage residents to keep an eye on local bodies of water and look for stranded manatees. Stranded, injured, or dead manatees, as well as lone manatee calves, should be immediately reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by calling 1-888-404-FWCC (3922),” says Patrick Rose, Aquatic Biologist and Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club.

For manatees in distress in Georgia, citizens can call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Conservation Section coastal office at 1-800-2-SAVE-ME (1-800-272-8363) or 1-800-241-4113. South Carolina residents should call the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources hotline at 1-800-922-5431 to report manatees in need of help.


Manatees and Hurricanes FAQ

Where do manatees go during a hurricane?

Changes in water levels and other factors can impact where manatees go. However, manatees are well-adapted to their environment and typically seek out safer and more sheltered waters during a hurricane.

Do manatees face any threats from a hurricane?

While manatees do take measures to find safer locations, they can still be at risk due to hurricanes. Storm surges can lead to flooding, which can give manatees access to areas they typically aren’t found in. Once the water levels decrease, they can become stranded. In the past, manatees have been found in ponds, golf courses, and even parking lots in storm aftermaths.

Hurricanes can also pull water out of manatee habitat, leaving manatees stranded. Young calves are especially at risk, as they can be easily separated from their mothers and become stuck on their own.

If you see a manatee in distress, please immediately call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922). If you’re outside of Florida, please contact your local stranding network.

How do hurricanes impact manatee habitat?

Hurricanes can add excess nutrients that can potentially feed algae blooms, which can prevent seagrasses from growing. They can also sweep additional debris and pollutants into manatee habitat.