Manatees migrating to warmer waters will be greeted with open arms this year in Citrus County, Florida. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced an emergency rule to expand protected areas for the temperature-sensitive marine mammals, creating a refuge that includes all of Kings Bay in Crystal River.
Due to its naturally occurring warm water springs, Kings Bay has been increasingly popular among wintering manatees. So much, in fact, that the existing protected area has not proved large enough to fit them all! Under this emergency rule (made possible through the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act), the Service will have management options to immediately address the needs of the increasing number of manatees coming to the area.
These new provisions couldn’t have come at a better time, with manatee deaths already at a record high this year, mostly due to cold-related causes. The rules will ensure the sea cows will have greater access to critical warm water areas during the winter months and address public concerns associated with local, wintertime manatee viewing activities.
Elizabeth Fleming, Defenders’ Florida representative said, “The emergency rule provides flexibility for wildlife managers on-the-ground to increase the areas manatees use as warm water refuges as needed. It will help the animals take shelter from the cold and protect them from inquisitive people who can cause harm to the vulnerable mammals.”
November is Manatee Awareness Month! Celebrate by learning more: