Featured Image Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife
Now that spring has sprung, the chance of encounters between Florida manatees and boaters has increased. As the marine mammals make their way from winter refuges to waters along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, boaters need to be on the lookout for them.
Seasonal manatee zones are enforced from April 1st through November 15th. These zones require boaters to slow down in certain areas so manatees don’t get struck by motorboats and personal watercraft. Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission patrol these waters to enforce the seasonal speed limits.
Manatees are hard to spot when their underwater, but steps can be taken to increase the chances of detecting them. Boaters are encouraged to wear polarized sunglasses, be on the look out for large circles on the water (known as manatee footprints) indicating the presence of a manatee below, or look for a snout sticking up out of the water. Of course, boaters are also encouraged to follow posted manatee zones and report injured, sick, distressed or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline. You can reach the hotline by calling 888-404-3922 or dialing #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone.
The FWC has biologists, managers and law enforcement staff working closely with partners to protect manatees. The state of Florida has invested over $2 million annually for manatee conservation.Manatee zones and maps are available here. And if you want to see Florida manatees in captivity or in the wild by visiting this site.