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West Indian Manatee is a large, gray-brown aquatic mammal.
Its seal-like body tapers to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. The
upper part of its body has two small forelimbs with 3 to 4 nails
on each flipper. The head and face are wrinkled, and the snout
has whiskers. Adults have been known to reach lengths of over
13 feet and weights of over 3,000 pounds. Calves are 3 to
4 feet long at birth and weigh approximately 60 pounds.
Manatees spend most of their time feeding and resting.
They graze for food along rivers, coastal bottoms and the water's
surface. Manatees have been known to hold their breaths for as
long as 20 minutes, but they usually surface every 5 minutes to
breathe. Their minimum population is estimated to be about
the continuing growth of Florida's coastal areas threatens the manatee's
What Can Boaters
You can reduce your chances of injuring or killing a manatee by following these simple steps:
- Wear polarized glasses while operating a boat. Polarized lenses make it much easier to see the "swirling" that
occurs when a manatee surfaces for air.
Stay in the center of the marked channel.
Manatees have shown signs that they are avoiding heavy traffic areas.
Channel depth reduces the likelihood of pinning or crushing manatees.
Stay out of sea grasses. Grass beds are prime manatee habitat.
This includes areas where hydrilla and water hyacinths are present.
Slow down. Your boat has speeds other than idle and "wide open".
Reducing your speed gives you greater maneuverability to avoid a manatee when you see
one (you'll also save gas).
Observe all manatee speed zones and caution areas.
What Can Divers
As divers, you are directly entering the manatee's habitat. By following these simple
steps you can minimize your impact:
- Use snorkel gear when diving with manatees. The sound of bubbles from SCUBA gear can frighten the manatees.
Manatees are wild animals and should not be fed.
Close exposure to or dependence on humans can be harmful to them.
While swimming or diving, do not approach or chase a manatee.
Give a manatee its "personal space".
A cow and her calf belong together.
Please do not separate them -- actually, please do not separate or single out
any individual manatee from a herd.
Never poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object.
Take only as many pictures as the manatees will pose for.
Never try to force a manatee into an extended photo