After extensive work on restoring the habitat at Wakulla Springs, manatees have returned to the springs. These gentle creatures come upstream to stay in the waters of the Springs in the fall for the warmer spring waters. They like the Springs because it is a safe place for them to have their babies. Some mantees have found the springs so nice they have decided to live here year round.
They seem to like to hang out under our diving tower, about 200 feet from the Lodge. You can often get amazing up close views of them from the Jungle Cruise.
The Florida manatee, or sea cow, (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. They look like big gray walruses, with squinty eyes and faces covered with whiskers. Manatees swim slowly through the water while eating and napping and socializing. Their gentle and serene nature tends to endear them to observers, and most consider manatees as cute.
Manatees live in freshwater and saltwater and are herbivores. They are mammals and rise to the surface every three to five minutes to breathe during normal activity. While sleeping in the water, manatees can stay underwater for up to twenty minutes. When they breathe, they can exchange up to ninety percent of the air in their lungs. They communicate with one another through a variety of vocalizations.
Manatees are federally listed as an endangered species and protected by state and federal law. Although the exact number of Florida manatees is unknown, based on aerial surveys, researchers belive there are at least 5,000 manatees in state waters. Major threats to manatee survival are all human related: habitat loss from coastal development and pollution, boat-related injuries and deaths, and entanglement in fishing gear.
CAN I SWIM WITH OR FEED MANATEES IN THE PARK?
NO. While swimming, you may look but not touch manatees. If a manatee approaches you, back away to avoid interaction. Human food does not provide them with the nutrients they need. Manatees are wild animals, and interactions with humans may be hazardous to the animal’s well being.
- Size: Manatees typically grow to 9 to 10 feet long and weigh about 1,000 pounds.
- They can grow to as large as 13 feet and weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
- Females usually are larger than males.
- Speed: Although manatees usually swim between 2 to 6 mph, for a short time, they can swim as fast as 15 mph.
- Primary Food: Sea grasses and water plants
- Range: Florida manatees are found in rivers, springs, and shallow coastal waters of Florida and nearby states.
- Gestation: 12 to 14 months.
- Life Span: 50 to 60 years.