These gentle gray giants bob and drift all over the great state of Florida, and I’ve seen plenty of manatees enjoying the fantastic weather over the years. That said, this vulnerable species is still an ardently protected animal by the US government, and here are a few ways to help care for America’s manatees:
The best way to protect wild manatees is by being a careful boater! If you enjoy boating in Florida, always keep your ride at or under the posted speed limits while in Manatee Zones and install a propeller guard on your motor boat. Since boat collisions are by and far the leading cause of manatee deaths in what otherwise are very long-lived animals, simply being a responsible boater makes a huge difference!
If you are a swimmer and you come across a manatee in the wild, lucky you! Take pictures, smile and wave as the big fella slowly goes about its business. You’d never want to disturb a manatee by following, touching, feeding or otherwise bothering the animal for two good reasons. One- Manatees are just good natured creatures that just want to be left alone. Two- They are federally protected animals, and if you’re caught messing with one, you are likely to get slapped with a huge fine!
Report sick, injured, orphaned or deceased manatees to the Florida Wildlife Control Center by calling 1-888-404-FWCC. That poor manatee might be rescued and rehabilitated thanks to you, or if you call in a departed manatee, the FWCC will benefit by receiving data to help further their manatee studies. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Even if you don’t get to hang around manatee-infested waterways too often, you can do your part by sharing this information to people who do, just in case they meet one of our blubbery buddies. Happy trails and safe boating, manatee fans!