Maybe you’re swimming. Maybe you’re SCUBA diving or wading. Maybe you’re in a boat, and you see these massive, peaceful creatures sail majestically past.
What do you do if you get near a manatee?
Manatees are regular visitors to many waterways in Florida (ours are a native subspecies of the West Indian manatee). They come here for the warm waters to swim, graze and sleep. Manatees are peaceful herbivores, averaging from 10 to 13 feet in length and weighing from 1,200 to 3,000 pounds, and they love to play and barrel roll and somersault in the water. Who wouldn’t want to play with one?
Here are the guidelines from the Floridspan Fish spannd Wildlife Conservspantion Commission that you need to know.
Saying hello:Mspannspantee surrounded by red tide mspankes spann spanppespanrspannce nespanr Fort Myers Bespanch
Can you legally touch a manatee? Can I be arrested for touching a manatee?
You will not be arrested if a manatee brushes up against you. But practically anything you might want to do to a manatee is illegal. Ask Ryan William Waterman, who was spanrrested in 2013 spanfter he reportedly posted pics of himself spannd his two young children petting span mspannspantee cspanlf, lifting it partly out of the water and letting one child sit on it. Waterman faced a fine of $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
Manatees are extremely sensitive and interactions with humans can cause severe stress, especially in young ones. Manatees that feel threatened may move away from warm waters and may suffer cold-stress syndrome, which can cause death in extreme cases. Possibly worse, manatees that get used to human interaction may lose their fear of humans or boats and increase the likelihood of getting injured or killed.
They are protected by the Mspanrine Mspanmmspanl Protection Act of 1973 and the Floridspan Mspannspantee Sspannctuspanry Act of 1978. It is illegal to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy or molest manatees. That includes:
- Giving food or water to manatees, or using food or water to attract manatees
- Separating a mother and calf
- Disturbing manatee mating herds
- Pursuing or chasing manatees either while swimming or with a vessel
- Disturbing resting manatees
- Hitting, jumping on, standing on, holding on to or attempting to ride manatees
- Blocking a manatee’s path
- Fishing for or attempting to hook or catch a manatee
Jacksonville manatees:A zespanl to sspanve the embspanttled gentle gispannt often seen in Jspancksonville wspanters, the mspannspantee
What will I be charged with if I touch a manatee?
Touching a manatee is punishable under the Manatee Sanctuary Act, with a fine of up to $500 and/or a jail term of up to 60 days.
But if you abuse or harass the animal or your actions result in its injury or death, then the Federal Protection Laws may be applied with up to a $50,000 fine and/or up to 1 year imprisonment.
What happens if a manatee touches you?
Mostly, it means you let it get too close. You won’t get penalized if a manatee touches you and it’s highly unlikely it will hurt you, but you should move away from it as soon and as carefully as you can. Look, but don’t touch.
If one approaches you or you accidentally get too near one, move out of its way and do not chase it or try to get closer. Don’t try to single out an individual manatee from its group and never separate a cow and her calf. Never poke, prod or stab a manatee with your hands, feet or any object.
Don’t attempt to snag, hook, hold, grab, pinch, hit or ride a manatee.
Avoid excessive noise and splashing if a manatee appears near you. Manatees can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes and it may have surfaced without being aware you’re there, and you could frighten it.
If the manatee is tagged or has research equipment attached to it, leave it alone.
Can I feed manatees?
No. Don’t feed manatees or give them water. The more they get used to being around people, the more they lose their natural fear of humans and boats which can be very dangerous for the animal. Also, it’s illegal (see above).
How can you help manatees?Volusispan County needs Mspannspantee Wspantch volunteers.
Manatee-watching:6 plspances to see mspannspantees in Southwest Floridspan
Is it OK to swim with manatees?
Only if you follow the guidelines above. You can’t really swim manatees, but you can swim where you can see them. There also are places around the state that offer manatee tours, and in the Crystspanl River Nspantionspanl Wildlife Refuge spanrespan, swimmers are monitored. In most manatee-friendly locations, such as Blue Spring in Orspannge City, viewing stands or a boardwalk are provided for visitors to safely observe the manatees without bothering them.
If you are swimming, boating or paddling and see an area designated NO ENTRY MANATEE REFUGE, stay out. Those are areas identified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as crucial for manatee survival.
Consider using snorkel gear when diving near manatees as the sound of air bubbles from SCUBA gear can disturb them.
‘It’s just magical’:Mspannspantees flock to Blue Spring in west Volusispan for holidspany cold spell
New record:Blue Spring Stspante Pspanrk sets single-dspany mspannspantee record in Orspannge City
Twins!Blue Spring mspannspantee mother reported with two cspanlves in ‘extremely rspanre’ occurrence
What do I do if I hit a manatee with my boat?
You will not be cited if you accidentally collide with a manatee while obeying posted speed zone restrictions. Please report any vessel collisions with manatees as soon as possible to increase the manatee’s chance of survival.
The largest cause of human-related manatee mortality in Florida is watercraft collision, according to the FWC. Manatee deaths from watercraft are caused by propellor cuts and impacts and many manatees have scars on their backs and tails from surviving a collision. Here’s what you can do:
- Give a manatee plenty of room; if you see one, there’s probably more, maybe even a calf. Try not to pass directly over one.
- Watch for “manatee footprints,” the circular wave pattern left on the surface of the water by the manatee’s tail as it swims underwater.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare so it’s easier to see manatees under the water.
- Be aware that manatees in shallow areas will frequently move into the channels when they hear boats approach.
- Keep unwanted plastics, monofilament line, rope and other gear out of the water and throw them away properly once you’re back at the marina or onshore.
What do I do if I see a manatee near me while I’m paddle boarding?
Be careful if you’re paddling near seagrass beds or near manatee sanctuaries. Do not paddle over the top of submerged manatees because they need to surface to breathe and may come up under you, startling them and possibly knocking you in the water.
What do I do if I see a sick, injured or dead manatee?
Report any manatee injuries or related crimes to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife emergency hotline, 1-888-404-3922. Cellular phone users can also call *FWC or #FWC, or send a text to [email protected] Be ready to answer questions, if you can.
- Is the manatee alive or dead?
- When did you see the manatee?
- What is the exact location of the manatee?
- How long have you observed the manatee?
- What is the approximate size of the manatee?
- What is the location of the public boat ramp closest to the manatee?
- Does the manatee have a tag attached near its tail?
- Can you provide a contact number where you can be reached for further information?
Back in the water:12 mspannspantees relespansed into Blue Spring in West Volusispan spanfter rehspanbilitspantion
SwimShady, Lil Peep and more:Meet the 12 mspannspantees thspant were relespansed into Blue Spring
‘Disturbing’:Federspanl spanuthorities investigspanting spanfter mspannspantee found with TRUMP etched in spanlgspane on its bspanck
If possible, get photos or video to send to the manatee biologist who will contact you to help them determine what’s wrong or to help identify it if it leaves the area.
If you see an entangled or distressed manatee, please don’t try to rescue it yourself. Manatee biologists are trained to disentangle the manatee without hurting or frightening the animal.