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Florida Manatee

Snorkeling with the manatee.

     The Florida manatee is an incredible marine mammal found throughout the State of Florida. The only place in the world where is it is legal to slip into the water with them is in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Western Florida. The best time to catch these animals is in the winter when they migrate from the ocean by the thousands to find warm springs. Crystal River averages 72 degrees throughout the winter and is a great place of refuge for the manatees. Manatees are huge and can weigh as much as a small car and swimming with them can be a bit intimidating. 

     

     But their reputation of being a gentle giant is extremely accurate. Manatees are huge and can weigh as much as a small car and swimming with them can be a bit intimidating. But their reputation of being a gentle giant is extremely accurate as they slowly move throughout the water. While escaping the cold of the ocean, manatees will gather in groups of a hundred or more. This is the only time they will do this as they are typically solitary animals for the rest of the year. Swimming with these behemoths was an incredible experience and one that depends on respect and giving the manatees the space they require.  

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Schools of mangrove snappers gather in the crystal clear water of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. These fish can be seen picking algae off of the manatees as they sleep.

Manatees have nostrils on top of their nose to allow them to quickly take a breath at the surface. They can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes. 

Manatees are slow moving mammals and will grow algae on their skin. This algae provides habitat for tons of microscopic organisms and is an ecosystem of itself. 

Manatees in 360 

The video below gives you a 360 degree view of manatees in their natural habitat! Make the video full screen and move your phone around you to view this spectacular underwater scene. 

Living with manatees.

     Many people encounter manatees in the wild while sharing their habitat for recreational use such as boating and fishing. Because of this, many manatees have become injured due to boat strikes as they spend a lot of time at the surface of the water and are very slow. They are struck by the propeller of the boat which can leave large cuts on their backs - sometimes killing the manatee. As a result, numbers in the wild dropped causing conservation organizations to step in. By establishing new boating laws, setting up signs and building public awareness, manatee populations started to come back. Today, manatee populations are slowly getting larger, but they are still at risk of many other things such as pollution and habitat loss.  Manatees are essential in maintaining healthy sea grass beds 

     

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