PROVIDED BY THE FWC - Now that the weather outside is chilly, Florida manatees are migrating to warmer waters. They swim in search of a warm winter refuge such as freshwater springs or canals adjacent to power plant outflows.
An adult manatee may weigh 1,000 pounds or more but is susceptible to cold. Water temperatures dipping to 68 degrees or below can produce cold stress in these aquatic mammals, and even cause death.
With many of the seasonal manatee protection zones that went into effect on November 15, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cautions boaters to be vigilant about slowing down and watching out for manatees. In Broward County, some slow speed zones formerly active only on weekends are now in effect every day during the cold season. November is designated as Manatee Awareness Month because of this seasonal migration.
“Many manatees in Florida have scars from run-ins with boats. We can do our part to help by complying with slow-speed and no-entry zones that indicate manatees may be in the area,” said Kipp Frohlich, who leads the FWC’s imperiled species management section. “Boaters should slow down where manatees like to congregate, such as seagrass beds and warm-water sites.”
How to spot Florida’s official marine mammal?
Boaters and personal watercraft operators should scan the water near or in front of their vessels and look for signs that manatees are close by, including repetitive swirl patterns called a manatee footprint, a mud trail, or a snout or fluke (tail) breaking the water’s surface.
Here are some other steps boaters and personal watercraft operators can take to help manatees migrate safely:
• Keep vessels in marked channels• Wear polarized sunglasses to improve your vision• Obey posted boat speed zones• Use poles, paddles or trolling motors when close to manatees• Have someone help scan the water when under way
Besides following manatee-safety recommendations, people can help manatees survive by reporting sick, distressed, injured, orphaned or entangled manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com. Florida residents also can call #FWC or *FWC via cell phone.
Manatee conservation is supported by Floridians who purchase the state’s manatee license plate. Funds from this specialty tag go directly to manatee research and conservation.Copies of complete individual county waterway rules are available at flrules.org. Visit MyFWC.com/Manatee or call the FWC at (850) 922-4330 for more information.
Below are the manatee winter waterway speed zone changes for Lee County:
Nov. 15 to March 31• No entry – Discharge and intake canals of the Florida Power & Light Tice Power Plant• Idle speed and slow speed – Portions of the Intracoastal Waterway channel on the Caloosahatchee River in the vicinity of the Tice Power Plant• 25 mph – Portions of Estero Bay, Hurricane Bay, Hell Peckney Bay and Hendry Creek• Seasonally unregulated – Cayo Costa, North Captiva, Captiva and St. James City areas.
Copies of complete individual county waterway rules for protection zones are available at flrules.org, or visit MyFWC.com/Manatee, or call the FWC at (850) 922-4330.
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