Florida - Boaters beware... Manatees are on the move.
Manatees are taking their cues from rising temperatures and leaving their winter retreats. The animals are heading north along the Atlantic and Gulf coast and through inland waters.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants boaters to be cautious and stay on the lookout for manatees. According to Scott Calleson, FWC Biologist, boaters are much more likely to come across manatees now that the weather is warming up.
Seasonal manatee zones will be in effect from April 1 through November 15, and will require boaters to slow down in those areas to keep manatees safe. FWC law enforcement officers will be on patrol in state waters to enforce the speed limits in these zones. Manatee zones and maps can be found at MyFWC.com/Manatee. Select "Protection Zones" for links to county maps.
"Our officers do their very best to support conservation of this species," said FWC Capt. Gary Klein. "We ask that boaters take notice of the zones and do their part as well by increasing their awareness of the possible presence of manatees."
Manatees can be hard to see, but there are things boaters can do to avoid hurting the animals. Polarized sunglasses will make it easier to see anything under the surface of the water. Large circles in the water, known as manatee footprints, indicate a manatee just below the surface. Manatees frequently stick their snouts up out of the water to breathe. Calleson says boaters should also be extremely careful "near seagrass beds since that's a place where manatees will frequently be because they're feeding."
Anyone who sees a hurt, distressed, sick, or dead manatee should call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC) or dial #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.
For more on manatees and how to safely see them in their natural habitat, look here.
Copyright Southern Stone Communications 2016.