Watch out for manatees on the move

Watch out for manatees on the move
Boat propeller scars are a common sight on Florida’s manatees. - Save the Manatee Club | Submitted

When the first cold front hits this month, manatees will be on the move, heading towards warmer waters in Florida’s springs and near power plant outflows.

During November – Manatee Awareness Month – the Save The Manatee Club asks boaters to respect manatee slow speed zones as the marine mammals are covering more ground than usual, increasing their chances of being hit by boats.

Boats are often deadly to manatees, which prompted former Florida Gov. Bob Graham to establish November as Manatee Awareness Month in 1979. In 1981, Graham co-founded the not-for-profit Save the Manatee Club with singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett.

For free shoreline property signs, boating banners, decals, waterway cards and educational posters from Save the Manatee Club, email [email protected] or call 1-800-432-5646.

So far this year, 423 manatees have died in Florida waters, 113 from boats, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Of those, 15 were in Manatee County waters, including two boats deaths in waters off Bradenton Beach.

Last year, 824 manatees died in Florida waters, 124 from boats.

To help protect the state’s official marine mammal, follow these tips:

  • Obey posted signs for manatee slow-speed zones.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to see manatees in your path.
  • If you observe a manatee mating herd – several manatees gathering as males vie to mate with a female – watch from at least 100 feet away. Coming any closer might disrupt the mating or endanger you; adult manatees typically weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
  • Never feed or water manatees as they will become habituated to people, which could put them at risk of injury.
  • Stow trash and line when underway. Marine debris that blows overboard can become ingested by or entangled around manatees.

Contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) if you see:

  • a manatee with a pink or red (fresh) wound.
  • a manatee tilting to one side, unable to submerge or seems to have trouble breathing.
  • a manatee calf by itself with no adults around for an extended period of time.
  • anyone harassing a manatee in any way.
  • boaters speeding in a protected area.
  • a manatee entangled in monofilament, crab-trap lines or other debris.
  • a dead manatee.