The Importance in Preserving Manatee Habitats

October 27, 2021

As the human population in Florida increases and waterfront development continues, manatees are losing the habitats they rely on in order to survive. Development can damage seagrasses, which are the main source of food for manatees. Development can also degrade water quality and reduce the availability of warm water from natural springs that provide manatees shelter during periods of cold weather. At temperatures under 68 degrees F, the stress of the cold water in manatee habitats can be harmful or even fatal for manatees.

Residential and commercial development has reduced the number of natural warm springs that manatees once used to stay warm during the winter. Now, most manatees rely on the warm water outfall that power plants produce. But if plants are shut down, or the equipment experiences some kind of failure, manatees are left without the warmer water. The survival of Florida’s manatees will depend on protecting the natural warm springs that they rely on, and ensuring that they can enjoy those places safely.

Agencies such as Defenders are advocating for the establishment of more protection for manatee habitats, including three Sisters Spring at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and Kings Bay Manatee Refuge, so that manatees can shelter in warm springs they need and travel to them with reduced threats from speeding watercrafts. Increased protection and restoration of natural springs is also needed.

The waters off of Naples, Florida are a wonderful place to see manatees while out on the waters and we provide an educated staff that is very informed and careful when in the waters, to avoid hurting any manatees, while sharing knowledge of these wonderful creatures and offering a boat ride to see them in their natural manatee habitats. Despite their massive size, manatees are extremely gentle and we support their protection, while sharing their beauty.

Manatee Safety Information for Boaters

October 20, 2021

All boaters in Florida use Florida’s marine ecosystem. As boaters, everyone should pay attention to the effects on the environment, since the waters we enjoy may be impacted by our actions. Every boater should learn and use safe boating practices that will protect Florida’s manatees, all wildlife, and waterways.

With regard to ecosystem impacts, personal watercraft operators may increase the water turbidity in areas where they operate their vessels, which not only makes it harder to see things in the water but also blocks the light that seagrass and other plants need to survive. In addition, if not operated in the appropriate areas, these vessels may also blast out holes in seagrass systems and may disturb manatees or other wildlife in prime habitat areas. As a personal watercraft operator, you should understand how your vessel could affect wildlife and habitat in order to operate your vessel in a way that minimizes ecosystem impacts.

Approximately 25 to 30 percent of manatee deaths statewide are attributed to watercrafts. In recent years, manatee deaths by blunt-force impacts have outpaced manatee deaths caused by propeller cuts, with a minimal portion of the deaths/injuries attributed to both causes.

The faster a boat is driven, the more force is applied to a strike. For example, the force of a strike at 30 miles per hour is four times that of a strike at 15 miles per hour, all other factors being equal. If a watercraft strikes a manatee in the head, such as while a manatee is taking a breath, the animal may die immediately. Strikes in other areas can result in acute injuries that quickly result in death but also result in chronic injuries that may linger for days, weeks, or longer before the manatee passes away. Internal injuries, such as broken or dislocated ribs, can also result in death from internal bleeding or infection.

Here are some things you can do when boating or operating a personal watercraft to make sure you are not injuring manatees:

  • Abide by posted speed zone signs
  • Wear polarized glasses to reduce glare on the surface of the water, which will help you to see manatees more easily
  • Try to stay in deep-water channels
  • Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas, where manatees are often found
  • Do not discard monofilament line, hooks, or any other litter into the water, as manatees and other wildlife could ingest the debris or become entangled in it and become injured or die
  • If you see a swirl on the surface of the water or see the animals back, snout, tail or flipper break through the surface, keep your distance, so you don’t hurt the animal with your boat

Manatee Mating and Breeding Facts

October 12, 2021

While the basics regarding manatee reproduction are known, researchers admit that there is still a great deal to learn about. Females are ready to mate at approximately 5 years of age. It takes almost twice that long for males who mature at approximately 9 years of age. When it is time to mate, you will see a group of five or six males with only one or two females in the group.

A fact that many people do not realize is that the manatee can reproduce any time of the year. The additional hormones in the female manatees will be increased though and then the males will respond to it. Researchers are not quite sure what triggers the hormones in the females, but it is important to understand that not all females end up having their calves at the same time of the year.

Female manatees will mate with several of the males in the group. This means that the males compete with each other to become the first to mate with her, as is the case with many other types of aquatic mammals. This process ensure the highest possible chance that the female will successfully conceive a calf before the mating process has been finished for the season. Females only mate every other year due to the long gestation period. However, it can be up to five years between the times the female will have a calf, due to the conditions of her environment. When a manatee is stressed or food is scarce she will not want to take part in the mating process.

It takes a full 12 months after conception for a calf to be born. Usually there is only one at a time, but there have been reports of twins being born. The mothers take very good care of their babies and nurse them until they are between a year and two years old. The baby manatees are also introduced to various types of plant life to feed on when they are a few weeks old.

When a manatee calf is born, it weighs approximately 70 pounds and is about 6 feet long. The calf is first nourished from the milk that the mother produces. The nipples are located behind the flippers. The calves know how to swim immediately and they suckle as the mother moves slowly through the water to find her own food.

Young manatees are very curious and they can try to eat something that isn’t good for them. The mothers do their best to keep them safe and away from anything that can cause them harm. This includes predators, such as crocodiles and alligators. Mothers are typically very vigilant in protecting their young and themselves from any danger. Their slow-moving nature may contribute to their ability to bet evaluate their surroundings.

What are Eco-Tours?

October 4, 2021

Our team at Manatee Eco-Tours out of Naples, Florida works diligently to create and offer well-planned, interactive learning experiences that introduce small groups of travelers to manatees and their environment, while supporting conservation efforts and encouraging an overall respect for the environment. We are a local, year-round family run operation devoted to sharing our knowledge of manatees and other wildlife that share their environment.

Some fun facts we share regarding manatees include:

  • Manatees feed on more than 60 species of plants, which include turtle grass, manatee grass, shoal grass, and mangrove leaves.
  • On average, one manatee is born to a mama manatee every two to five years. Also, it is very rare for twin manatees to be born, but it does occur.
  • With regard to the number of manatees currently in Florida, for the third straight year, spotters have counted more than 6,000 manatees navigating through Florida’s beautiful and warm waters.
  • There are three species of manatees, including the Amazonian manatee, the West Indian manatee and the West African manatee.

Knowledge of manatees and their gentle and slow-moving nature, eating habits, resting habits, and mating habits, is key in understanding them and participating in protecting them and their habitat. Manatees have no known natural enemies and these beautiful creatures are a wonderful sight to see and observe.

Manatee Eco-tours out of Naples, Florida is a must on your to-do list when visiting the Naples area. We will take the entire family and/or group of friends on an exciting 1 ½ hour personal boat tour into a remote everglades manatee hideout, where you are sure to see manatees at very close range and enjoy their magnificence. Our eco-adventure tour is fun for all ages, with no high speeds and no rough waters to navigate. The boats are fully covered for comfort and safety.