Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of the Interior downlisted the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened after recording increases in manatee populations in the Caribbean (see previous post Manatee Makes a Comeback/). Scientists say that at least 6,620 manatees can be found in Florida waters. A recent article reports that as water temperatures rise, manatees in Florida are moving to coastal areas and they are gathering in large breeding herds at local beaches. Although the article below does not mention it, as they move towards local beach areas, the manatees are vulnerable to man-made hazards. Here are excerpts:
“During mating season you may see what’s called a mating herd, and that’s a group of manatees and most likely there are multiple males trying to mate with one female,” said Michelle Kerr, with the Florida Wildlife Research Institute.
Manatees are the official state marine mammal and can grow to 14 feet in length and weigh upward of 3,500 pounds.
Sometimes called sea cows, manatees are sub-tropical marine mammals that feed on seagrasses and need warm waters to survive. Their immune systems start to shut down when water temperatures get to 68 degrees and below.
Jim Griffiths, a local boater and publisher of boating magazine Nautical Mile, said the manatees have mostly made their summer migration to the coast. He gives them plenty of space. “It’s pretty normal for this time of year,” Griffiths said. “You see them up and down the coast this time of year. But I stay away from them, and I think they can really hurt you because a manatee is a powerful creature.”
Manatees are listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which proposed last year to lower the animal’s protected status after years of legal battles with boating and property rights interests.
They spend much of the winter hidden away in warm-water retreats like the Orange River, which is connected to the Caloosahatchee River and is warmed by a nearby Florida Power & Light station. But they spend summer roaming the coasts, eating sea grasses and looking for potential mates. [. . .]
For full article, see http://www.news-press.com/story/news/2017/05/29/manatees-prowl/348509001/
Photo by Keith Ramos, from https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/how-many-manatees-live-florida