Manatee Season Is Here!
by Cora Berchem, Director of Multimedia & Manatee Research Associate,
and Nancy Sadusky, Director of Online Communications, Save the Manatee Club
Date: November 24, 2020
Cooler weather has arrived in Florida, and manatees have started to visit warm water sites around the state. Manatees need these warm water areas to survive. In spite of their size, they have relatively little body fat, and their metabolic rate is low compared to other marine mammals. Manatees cannot tolerate temperatures below 20 ° C (68 ° F) for long periods of time, so they migrate to warm water sources such as freshwater springs or warm water effluents of power plants.
It’s an exciting time of the year for fans of the large aquatic mammals. The good news is there are several ways to view manatees – whether you are visiting Florida or watching from the comfort of your home.
Watch on the Webcams
In mid-November, the webcams from Blue Spring State Park and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park went live again. The above- and underwater webcams, a joint project of Explore.org and Save the Manatee Club (SMC), show wild manatees seeking refuge at these protected warm water sites, and the public can enjoy them seven days a week on ManaTV.org with pre-recorded highlights playing during the nighttime hours.
While the webcams are a popular educational and entertainment tool, they are also helping with manatee research. Wayne Hartley, SMC’s Manatee Specialist and Cora Berchem, SMC Director of Multimedia & Manatee Research Associate, monitor the manatees at Blue Spring State Park. Last season, they detected 11 additional manatees in the webcam footage that they did not see in person at Blue Spring during morning roll calls. They also get additional photos of manatees for scar ID purposes, which are shared with partners at the U.S. Geological Survey Sirenia Project for inclusion in a statewide database. In addition, the webcams allow them to monitor sick or injured manatees — valuable information that they can share with partners at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for evaluation and potential rescue.
Adoptees seen so far include Annie, Lily, Gator, Una, and Phyllis and her new calf. Wayne and Cora report that Annie looks big, so there’s a good chance she might be pregnant. Join us on the webcam page to get the latest updates from Wayne and Cora from this season as well as past seasons. You can view their scar pattern charts and try to identify manatees seen on webcams. Plus, you can learn about Blue Spring State Park and why it is vital habitat for manatees.
Watching manatees on the webcams is a great way to passively monitor manatees without interfering with their natural behavior. We hope you enjoy some fun manatee moments this winter season from near and far by watching ManaTV.org.
Manatee Viewing in Florida
If you are visiting Florida and are out on the waterways, Save the Manatee Club recommends passive observation or viewing from a distance as the best way to protect manatees and all other wildlife. There are several places along Florida’s east and west coasts where you can see manatees from viewing platforms at parks and power plants in the winter, and many of these facilities are also a great place to learn about manatees. Check them out on SMC’s Manatee Viewing page. (Note: Due to Covid-19, please check with the facilities before you visit to make sure they are open.) You can also rent a kayak and head out on the water or take a guided ecotour to see manatees. But make sure that you choose a responsible manatee ecotour operator who practices passive observation, varies their tour times, and limits the number of participants. Save the Manatee Club’s Guardian Guides Certification is a new and growing voluntary program for ecotourism providers in Florida that promotes stewardship of manatees and their aquatic ecosystems. In addition, you can watch the following video to get information on Responsible Paddling Near Manatees.
Always remember that warm water areas are vital for manatee survival in the winter, and they may leave if they are disturbed. Manatees are a threatened species and are protected by state and federal law, and you could be fined or face time in jail if you disturb them or alter their natural behavior. Remember to:
- View manatees from a distance.
- Don’t touch, feed, or give manatees water.
- Don’t separate a mother and calf.
- Give manatees the right of way and don’t interfere with their natural behavior.
For more information on viewing areas, as well as videos and protection tips, check out our Manatee Viewing page.