Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Talks About Interacting With Manatees Safely

By  //  December 24, 2015

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Look, but never touch a manatee

These manatees know how to pose for a surreal picture. The water is so clear and they are so still that they appear to be hovering in midair. During the winter months, manatees head for warm waters, such as this crystal-clear spring so they can survive the winter. These manatees were spotted at Three Sisters Spring in Crystal River. (MyFWC.com image)

These manatees know how to pose for a surreal picture. The water is so clear and they are so still that they appear to be hovering in midair. During the winter months, manatees head for warm waters, such as this crystal-clear spring so they can survive the winter. These manatees were spotted at Three Sisters Spring in Crystal River. (MyFWC.com image)

Manatees are found in many of Florida’s waterways and can be difficult to see, especially when you travel in a boat on the water. 

You may see a swirl on the surface caused by the manatee when it dives; see an animal’s back, snout, tail, or flipper break the surface of the water; or you may only hear the manatee when it surfaces to breathe.

In all of these instances, keeping your distance and passive observation are the best ways to view manatees.

The West Indian manatee is an imperiled species and is protected by state and federal law (see below). Please avoid harassing or disturbing manatees whenever you discover that manatees are in the water near you. Harassment is defined as any activity that alters the animal’s natural behavior. By altering the manatee’s natural behavior, you may create the likelihood of danger that is bad for the animal and against the law.

• Look, but don’t touch manatees. Also, don’t feed manatees or give them water. If manatees become accustomed to being around people, they can alter their behavior in the wild, perhaps causing them to lose their natural fear of boats and humans, which may make them more susceptible to harm.

• Do not pursue or chase a manatee if you see one while you are swimming, snorkeling, diving, paddling or operating a boat.
• Never poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object.
• If a manatee avoids you, do not chase the animal for a closer view.
• Give manatees space to move. Avoid isolating or singling out an individual manatee from its group and do not separate a cow and her calf.
• Keep hands and objects to yourself. Don’t attempt to snag, hook, hold, grab, pinch, hit or ride a manatee.
• Avoid excessive noise and splashing if a manatee appears nearby. The manatee may be resting and may surface without being aware of your presence. Noise and activity may startle the animal awake, which may put it in harm’s way if it is frightened and leaves the area.
• If the site you visit allows in-water activities near manatees, use snorkel gear and float at the surface of the water to passively observe manatees. The sound of bubbles from SCUBA gear or other devices may cause manatees to leave the area.

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ABOVE VIDEO: Video resource for people who may observe for manatees during permitted in-water activities to help prevent animal injury or death. The video includes facts about manatees and manatee presence in Florida waterways, and describes how to identify manatees in the water. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission video)


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