Manatees-The Gentle Giants

Manatees in Florida

Those gentle giants are found everywhere in Florida, whether you spot them in nature or on one of the many manatee signs in Florida.

Manatees prefer warm and murky waters that are rich in plant life.

They eat approximately 10% of their body weight (which can be close to a ton) in plants. After 13 to 15 months of pregnancy, a manatee cow give birth to her young, who stay with their mother during the first two years of their life. Biologists classify manatees between whales and seals. The animals can reach between 9 and 13 feet (3-4 m) in length and live up to 70 years. Approximately 1600 to 1800 of these water mammals still live in Florida.

Manatees eat about eight hours per day, clearing the waterways of floating vegetation. Therefore, the speed in the more than 22 waterways designated as "manatee areas" is limited to a few miles per hour. It is important that the speed limits are observed—otherwise boat propellers can badly injure these useful and harmless animals.

Those who want to experience a close-up encounter with a manatee can do so in several Florida locations. The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge at the West coast of Florida offers a unique experience: visitors can snorkel and swim with manatees. Manatee Tour & Drives in Crystal River and Adventure Kayak of Cocoa Beach also offer manatee tours.

Near Fort Myers Manatee Park, "Guided Kayak Nature Tours" organizes guided kayak manatee-watching tours.

The Manatee Observation & Education Center in Fort Pierce at the East coast of Florida provides special information on manatees and on the "Treasure Coast" eco-system. Visitors also have the opportunity to watch the marine mammals from bridgeways and observation towers.

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