The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service is proud to offer manatee viewing and manatee awareness events at select state parks where manatees congregate in the winter. The manatee is Florida’s official state marine mammal and is listed as endangered at the international, federal and state levels.
“We are pleased to help interpret the beauty of Florida manatees through viewing locations and educational programs at state parks for our visitors,” said Donald Forgione, DEP’s Florida Park Service Director. “These gentle giants remind us how important it is to protect and preserve Florida’s environment and the springs where the manatees gather.”
In winter, manatees gather in the warmer waters of Florida’s springs. Since they are a subtropical species, manatees cannot tolerate prolonged exposure to water temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Springs water temperatures remain between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit during all seasons. During the year, manatees migrate, traveling as far west as Texas and as far north as Virginia.
Manatees have several adaptations to help them thrive in Florida’s waters. Manatees are herbivores and have “marching molars” for grinding down gritty seagrasses. They form new teeth at the back of their jaw that move forward over time. Calves nurse from their mother for up to two years, and only one calf is born every two to five years. Females are also known to spontaneously lactate – even females who have never given birth – to foster an orphaned calf.
Manatees are highly communicative, particularly mothers and calves, and often chirp, whistle or squeak at high frequencies to express fear or awareness of another manatee. Manatees are remarkably robust animals. They are renowned for fending off diseases and are frequently able to heal from severe trauma caused by boat strikes.