Because it is summer, manatees are a less commonly-seen species of marine animal on the water during turtle patrol. But when we do get a glimpse of them, it’s definitely a treat. With their massive round bodies, adorable faces and peaceful demeanor, its hard not to love these not-so-little guys.
After I dropped off Jennifer and our volunteer at the beach to check out a turtle nest this morning, my boat had drifted about 50 yards offshore. I was checking the radar (a storm was approaching) when all of a sudden I hear a deep exhale behind me. It startled me, and I quickly turned around to see a huge manatee right behind the boat! It was a choppy day, making the water darker than usual, so I could barely see it’s body from even a few feet away. The manatee was displaying very curious behavior: it would come up next to the boat, take a breath, go back underwater for a minute or so, and then come right back to the boat. It was exciting but also distressing for me to see this animal so close to my boat.
Manatees have recently been downgraded from “endangered” to “threatened” in Florida, but are still federally protected by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. One of the main causes of death for manatees is from boat strikes. Manatees prefer to swim in shallow, warm, clear waters: the same places you might find recreational boaters here in Southwest Florida. If boaters are not extremely cautious in or around seagrass beds or manatee zones, they risk the possibility of hitting and injuring one of these beautiful creatures. Decreasing boat speed in manatee zones is crucial to their safety. What’s even more important is knowing that manatees are wild animals and they should never be approached in a way that might jeopardize their safety or well-being. That being said, spotting one of these animals is definitely an experience I won’t soon forget!
Learn more about our monitoring efforts and see the latest nest numbers here!
Sea Turtle Intern
Please remember, maintaining a safe distance is imperative for a successful nesting season for all of Florida’s wild life.
Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve stretches across 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands and protected waters. We are committed to preservation through research, education, and land protection.