With winter’s chill approaching, Florida manatees are on the move. Manatees cannot tolerate cold water and may begin to seek warmer water when temperatures start to drop below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Some travel hundreds of miles to reach a warmer destination. Because of the annual migration, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding boat and personal watercraft operators that it is important to slow down to avoid manatees, particularly in shallow areas. Manatees can be difficult to see as they often swim and rest just below the water’s surface. Boaters wearing polarized sunglasses are more likely to spot manatees underwater. November is Manatee Awareness Month. There is no better time to plan a visit to observe Florida’s beloved manatees. Find these places by going to MyFWC.com/Manatee and clicking the link under the “Where can I See Manatees?” box. “Watching these large plant-eating mammals swim slowly through Florida waters, often accompanied by their calves, is a special experience for residents and visitors to the state,” said Carol Knox, the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management section leader.
“Boaters following posted speed zones for manatees migrating to warmer waters help conserve this iconic Florida species for future generations.” Boaters should be aware that many seasonal manatee protection zones go into effect on Nov. 15 throughout the state. For information about manatee protection zones by county, including the seasonal changes, go to MyFWC.com/Manatee, and click on “Data and Maps.” At the bottom of that same page, there also is information on FWC Manatee COLD-weather changes to speed zones. FWC law enforcement officers will be on the water enforcing these seasonal rules to protect manatees in busy boating areas. People can report sightings of injured, sick or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922, #FWC and *FWC on a cell phone, or with a text to Tip@My-FWC.com. The purchase of a Florida manatee license plate at BuyaPlate.com or a manatee decal from tax collectors’ offices in Florida is another way to help manatees. The license plate and decal support the FWC manatee program, including research, rescue, rehabilitation, conservation, management and education efforts. Learn more about Florida manatees at MyFWC.com/Manatees. Click on “Manatee Habitat” to discover what plants they eat when inhabiting Florida’s rivers, bays, canals, estuaries and coastal areas. While on that page, click on “Boat, PWC & Paddle-sport Operators.” Also check out “A Boater’s guide to living with Florida Manatees” and “Guidelines for successful manatee watching in Florida.”