Florida manatee, © Tracy Colson/USFWS

November is Manatee Awareness Month

It’s Manatee Awareness Month – a time to celebrate the gentle giants that are our official state marine mammal here in Florida. Relatives of the elephant, manatees spend a lot of time grazing on seagrasses in shallow water, and are sometimes referred to as sea cows. Because Florida manatees are an endangered species, it’s especially important that people know more about these wonderful animals and what we can do to protect them.

Manatee at Crystal River, © David Hinkel/USFWS

© David Hinkel/USFWS

Sadly, as we reported this spring, this has been a particularly brutal year for manatees. In fact, 2013 is now the deadliest year on record for the number of manatees killed: a total of 771 manatees as of November 5, 2013 and we still have nearly two months to go.

What made 2013 so deadly? It was due in large part to two unusual algal blooms, one on each coast. The toxic red tide bloom on the Gulf coast killed many manatees directly, while the “brown tide” in the Indian River Lagoon killed off much of their food supply. These two unprecedented events, coupled with the usual threats manatees encounter every year – especially injuries from watercraft – have dealt a significant loss to the population, estimated at around 5,000 animals.

With winter approaching, and so many manatees lost already, it’s more important than ever that they find safe, warm water in which to spend the next few months. The greatest long-term threat to manatees involves the loss of warm-water habitat that they need to survive. Manatees become susceptible to cold stress when water temperatures dip below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because residential development has greatly reduced the natural warm-water springs used by manatees, many of the animals aggregate in the outfalls at electric power plants on cold winter days. A significant number of manatees could be lost in the next few decades if natural areas are not available to manatees as aging plants are shut down or experience equipment failure.

To help make traveling to and within warmer waters safer for manatees, a number of seasonal manatee slower-speed protection zones go into effect on November 15 throughout the state. Boaters can help these slow-moving animals by reducing their speed and being alert to the presence of manatees, such as seeing a snout, tail or a large swirl on the surface of the water. Obeying posted speed zones, wearing polarized sunglasses and watching out for manatees can all help save their lives.


You can also help manatees at our Wildlife Adoption Center! Click the photo to learn more.

There are also other ways that everyone, whether you live and boat in Florida or not, can help manatees. You can visit our website to learn more about these fascinating marine mammals, and share what you know with family and friends; conservation starts with awareness! You can also help by supporting programs that strengthen the Endangered Species Act, which has been vital to manatees’ survival, and Everglades restoration, which will be extremely important to their future. And of course, you can help by supporting Defenders’ efforts. We work to conserve and recover the Florida manatee by protecting habitat, reducing watercraft strikes, improving coastal policies and increasing enforcement of those policies. We advocate for officials and state wildlife agencies to preserve and restore natural springs, conserve seagrass habitat, expand protected areas, designate and enforce protective speed zones and safeguard state and federal policies that protect manatees.

Elizabeth Fleming is Defenders’ Florida Representative


Anyone who observes a sick, injured, orphaned, entangled or dead manatee, or witnesses someone harming or harassing these vulnerable animals, should immediately call the Florida Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), text TIP@MYFWC.com or call #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

59 Responses to “November is Manatee Awareness Month”

  1. Maruka

    Animals around the globe are counting on compassionate people like you to give them a voice and be their “heroes” by learning about the issues they face and taking action. Each of us have the power to save Animals from nightmarish suffering and best of all; it’s easier than you might think.

    The time has come Ladies and Gentlemen, to stop thinking of Animal Rights as distracting or less deserving of our time and energy than other struggles for social justice. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. All oppression, prejudice, violence, and cruelty are wrong and must be rejected no matter how novel the idea or how inconvenient the task.

    For those who think that we will never be able to achieve the dream of liberation from oppression, not just for human beings, but for all beings, regardless of race or gender or species, I have just three words for all of you: YES, WE, CAN. Thank you and thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Human Society of The United States.

  2. Susan Heil

    We must preserve and protect all living creatures for the generations to come. I do not understand why these states are making such a case against these wolves. Wolves are necessary to cull the weak and sick from elk herds etc. They do not hurt the elk population, they actually help to sustain it. What kind of people are spending all their time on this issue. Don’t they have anything better to do than worry about these amazing creatures. We must save them. We have the Wolf Sanctuary in Missouri. It is awesome to go and see these animals. They are trying to breed them so they can be released back into the wild. It is neat to go on wolf howls which they schedule through the year.

  3. Susan Heil

    We need to save Manatees also. I think we had some at our zoo, but not anymore. I have never seen one in the wild but that would be a thrill. Lucky people who have seen them. Hope they can save them down there in Florida.

  4. Anthony Kane

    So sad… Our human race needs to remember that we must fight for the innocent and for the animals who cannot fight for themselves. We as humans can do what we choose but animals do not have that option. We must fight for the innocent


    NECESSARIO URGENTEMENTE, salvar peixe-boi também. Eu acho que nós tivemos alguns em nosso jardim zoológico,.Tão triste … Nossa raça humana precisa lembrar que devemos lutar para os inocentes e para os animais que não podem lutar por si mesmos

  6. La Marca Monique

    Yes, we must fight for innocent animals, so often mistreated by “humans”…for money or mentally disturbed…protect them all and specially the manatees shown
    in this mail…

  7. Margaret Arelt

    Is there any thing being done to control what we in the water pollution control business call “non point” sources – that is, runoff of nutrients which gives rise to red and brown algae growth? Non point source pollution is really hard to control, but working with agricultural producers may help lessen the problem.


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