FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2010
Media Contact: Chuck Underwood, 904-731-3332
Warming spells mean active manatees
Boaters asked to be extra alert
The unusually cold Florida weather resulted in large concentrations of manatees at warm-water sites throughout Florida. The colder temperatures also kept the animals from traveling out to feed.
Weather forecasters are predicting a slight warming trend over the next few days and according to Service biologists many of these animals are likely very hungry so they will take advantage and actively move out of these sites in search of food.
“These animals have restricted their movements and feeding because of the cold,” said Jim Valade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) manatee biologist in Jacksonville. “As such, during this warmer weather these animals will become more active and move out into main water bodies for feeding.”
Given this increase in activity and higher than normal concentrations in some areas, Service conservation managers urge all boaters to be extra alert for manatees traveling between these warm-water sites and the grassbeds where they feed.
This year many manatees have also used some unusual locations in an attempt to stay warm.
“We’ve seen concentrations of manatees in the usual areas around springs and power plants,” Valade said, “but we’ve also observed manatees using unexpected locations where the water temperatures were only marginally warmer than main water bodies; such as canals. This raises our concerns that boaters could well encounter manatees in areas where they are not expected this time of the year.”
Commercial and recreational watercraft operators are asked to be aware of and observe posted manatee protection zones and be on the look-out for manatees even outside these designated zones.
If you see a dead or injured manatee, please report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Alert at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on your cellular phone, or use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.
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The Service’s North Florida Ecological Services Office is the federal lead for manatee recovery and conservation. Editorial boards, assignment editors and reporters are encouraged to contact the public information officer, listed above, for assistance in fact checking information and getting answers to questions related to manatee recovery and conservation actions, concerns or rumors.