STATEWIDE — For Manatee Awareness Month this November, the Save the Manatee Club announced an invitation to the community to learn more about our beloved sea cows.
The organization said November is an annual opportunity to celebrate Florida’s state marine mammal and raise awareness of the ongoing threats to manatees and their aquatic habitat. Manatee Awareness Month was first declared in 1979 by former Florida Governor and Save the Manatee Club, SMC, co-founder Bob Graham.
It's the perfect month to celebrate manatees, the organization said, as it is the month in which these semi-migratory aquatic mammals usually begin returning to Florida’s warm water springs and refuges. Despite their size, manatees have slower metabolisms and less fat layers than other marine mammals so they cannot survive prolonged exposure to cold water temperatures. Once the water temperature dips below 68ºF, they need to aggregate at warm water sources such as Florida’s natural springs or power plant effluents, according to the club.
“As manatees move to warmer waters in Florida, it is imperative that everyone who enjoys Florida’s waterways does their part to look out for manatees,” said Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist and executive director of Save the Manatee Club. “Collisions with watercraft, harassment by humans, cold stress, and starvation as a result of the ongoing seagrass loss in the Indian River Lagoon are all known threats to the manatee population. Members of the public can play a direct and critical role in protecting manatees by being aware of their presence in the water, learning how to recognize if something is wrong, and knowing how to report problems to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at 888 404-FWCC (3922).”
Throughout Manatee Awareness Month, Save the Manatee Club will be sharing manatee facts, videos, quizzes, and opportunities to take action on its website at savethemanatee.org/MAM. SMC will also host a free webinar “Research at Blue Spring” on November 15 at 6:00pm EST to share how researchers identify and count manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, FL, and why Blue Spring is such an important manatee refuge and sanctuary.
SMC will also offer free materials for boaters, paddlers, and waterfront property owners to help promote manatee safety including aluminum “Slow Please” signs, a waterproof decal with information on how to report a manatee in distress, and a “Manatees Below” banner. Supporters can view available resources and learn how to request them at savethemanatee.org/resources.
Any manatee that may be sick, injured, entangled, or orphaned, or a manatee that is being harassed or is fitted with a tracking device should be immediately reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) by calling 1-888-404-3922 or by texting “FWC” followed by any relevant details to 847411.