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Manatee Facts

Manatees, an Endangered Species
Single manatee photo in 3 sisters springs.Single manatee photo in 3 sisters springs.

 

How many manatees are living today?

Well, this depends on who you talk to, some say 5000 manatees plus and some say as low as 2000 manatees.

The number is somewhere around 3800.

Size: Length is up to 13 feet and the manatee weighs in at around 3500 pounds.

The average size manatee is from 8 to 10 feet, with an average weight of around 800 to a 1000 pounds.

Body fat is somewhere between 3 to 5%


 

 

Habitat

 

The West Indian Manatee can be found in coastal waters and connecting rivers ranging from Virginia around the Gulf of Mexico. They inhabit shallow coastal waters, bays, estuaries lagoons and rivers. Manatees are able to move freely from saltwater to freshwater. They often congregate at sources of warm water such as our natural springs in Florida and power plants discharges. Manatee have nomadic tendencies, pausing in areas that supply their needs and then moving on.

 

  • Manatees are herbivores, and mainly grass eaters.

  • Manatees cannot survive in water temperatures below 68 degrees for long periods of time.

  • Active manatees need to surface for air every 4 to 6 minutes and while resting manatees may stay down as long as 20 minutes.

  • Manatees spend between 6 to 8 hours of feeding which equals to about 10% of their body weight.

  • Manatees in the wild live to around 30 years of age, while manatees in captivity live to be around 50 to 60 years of age or longer.

  • Female manatees mature around 5 years of age and males 6 to 7 years of age.

 
 
Shallow-water-manateesShallow-water-manatees
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Manatee feeding in the shallow grass beds of Crystal River Florida
A set of manatees, the baby is nursing.
  • Gestation is 13 months.  Birth size is approximately 39 inches and weigh in at around 40 to 50 pounds.
  • Manatees mostly give birth to single calf, but it has been known to give twins.
  • Mothers will nurse their young up to 2 1/2 years.
  • What Kills Manatees?
  • In the past manatees died for a few reasons.   They where hunted and extremely cold winters. Well, times have changed. 
  • Manatees are no longer hunted, but mortality is on the rise for many reasons, again from human related sources and natural causes.
  • Almost 40% of the manatee mortality is caused by humans.

How do manatees die?

 

Watercraft Mortality is the largest known cause. Here is a break down of the water ccraftmortality.

  • 60% are killed by impact injuries from physical force of a boat traveling at a high rate of speed. (Blunt Trauma)

  • 30% are killed by rotating propellers and fixed skews. (Sharp Force Trauma)

  • 10% Combination of both Blunt Trauma and Sharp Force Trauma.

 

A Manatee Rescue in Crystal River Florida.A Manatee Rescue in Crystal River Florida.

Natural Causes 

 

Cold Stress

  •  The leading non human related causes are exposure to the cold. Manatees need at least 68 degree water temperature or warmer to survive or they could suffer from Hypothermia. 

  • It seems the young are more affected than the larger manatees.

Red Tide
  • Red Tide can occur naturally or by the help of humans (pollution) with a rapid growth in a one cell organisms which grows in water with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. 

  • Again, with the lost of habit, this is becoming more prevalent today, with the run off of lawns, farms and golf courses. 

  • The red tide consumes the Nitrogen and Phosphorus and produces a bloom which looks like a blanket or carpet over the water, which in turns cuts off the sunlight to the plants and 
    absorbing the O2 as it grows. 

  • When the fish and plants start to die, they decay absorbing even more O2, killing the marine life by suffocation. 

  • A couple of reason why the manatees die from red tide, they eat sea grass which contains small marine animals known as sea squirts or grass shrimp which contains the toxins. 

  • Or they die from inhalation of brevetoxins. Red tide which can effect humans as well, that live along the affected coast.

Manatee Harassement

 

Harassment

Swimmers, boaters, fisherman and land development, just to name a few, all have ttheirimpact on the manatees. 

The best way to describe manatee harassment "humans" is to go to this link "Harassment Video" but please take the time to read the rest of this. NOTE:  the comments from the Feb 18th 2008 from Mark Santa-Maria which is the person that filmed and made this video. Mark won an award at the 2008 Our World Underwater Film Competition.

This will NOT happen on our Manatee Tour, this kind of conduct is a good way for you to lose your tour.  

You will be signing waivers agreeing to proper conduct. 

This is one reason we limit our group size so we can control our guest with proper manatee manners.