Mad About Manatees
We love our resident sea cows so much that we dedicated the last Wednesday of every March to Manatee Appreciation Day. Yet throughout Fort Myers’ islands, beaches and neighborhoods, there are ways to celebrate manatees every day of the year.
When Can I See Manatees?
You can see them in the Fort Myers area all year round! Their location depends on the temperature as these mammals prefer warmer waters.
Where Can I See Manatees?
During warmer months, you can see these slow-moving and naturally curious creatures in coastal waters, such as off shore from our beaches and throughout backbay waters. When cold fronts cool off the Gulf of Mexico, they make their way inland toward warmer waters that flow into the rivers and canals. Fort Myers’ Manatee Park is a great place to visit during the winter months. This warm water refuge helps keep our sea cow friends comfortable until they can venture back out into the Gulf waters.
Are Manatees Endangered?
Florida manatees are not endangered but they are a threatened species, and they are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. While these actions are helping to preserve the population, there are still many threats that exist and ways that we can help.
How Can I Help with Manatee Conservation?
Manatees are naturally curious creatures, but it’s essential to keep your distance and not chase or touch them. Be aware of their presence by looking out for swirling water, which indicates they’re diving or swimming, and keep an eye out for their back, snout or flipper breaking through the surface of the water. Polarized sunglasses can help eliminate glare so you’re more likely to spot them.
Be mindful when boating in their waters. Keep at least 50 feet away and move slowly which gives them time to move out of harm’s way; turn your motor off if you want to stop and observe them.
It is important not to feed manatees or give them water. If manatees become accustomed to being around people, that can change their behavior in the wild causing them to lose their natural fear of boats and humans. This may make them more susceptible to harm.
Manatees are impacted by debris and improperly discarded fishing lines and other fishing gear. “Mind your line” and recycle monofilament fishing lines in designated bins that are located around the beaches, docks, ramps and tackle shops.
If you spot a manatee in distress, do not try to help! Call 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922) or dial #FWC or *FWC to report it.