Photo by Troy Levengood
November is Manatee Awareness Month, an annual opportunity to celebrate Florida’s state marine mammal and raise awareness of the threats to manatees and their aquatic habitat.
Manatee Awareness Month was first declared in 1979 by Bob Graham, a co-founder of Save the Manatee Club, when he was governor.
As a time when temperatures are dropping, November is the perfect month to raise awareness for manatees. Despite their size, manatees have little body fat and cannot survive prolonged exposure to cold water. Once the temperature dips below 68 degrees, they instinctively seek warm-water sources, such as Florida’s natural springs and power plant outflows.
“Protected warm-water sites, such as Blue Spring State Park in Central Florida, are essential for manatees during this time,” says Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and the executive director of Save the Manatee Club. “As manatees are traveling back to their winter refuges, it is imperative that we keep an eye out for manatees, especially when boating or enjoying other activities in or on the water. The public plays a major role in watching out for manatees and reporting any distressed individuals to the proper authorities.”
Each week of Manatee Awareness Month, the club is featuring educational facts, videos, quizzes, activities and ways to help at savethemanatee.org/MAM. Save the Manatee Club also offers live webcam feeds to provide a peek into the underwater world of manatees.
Boaters, paddlers and waterfront property owners can help promote manatee safety by requesting free materials, including waterway signs, boating banners and a waterproof decal with information on how to report a manatee in distress. See the available resources and learn how to request them at savethemanatee.org/resources.
Any manatee that appears sick, injured, entangled or orphaned, is being harassed, or is fitted with a tracking device should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by calling 888-404-3922 or by texting “FWC” and any relevant details to 847411.