Florida manatee, © Tracy Colson/USFWS

November is Manatee Awareness Month

It’s Manatee Awareness Month – a time to celebrate the gentle giants that are our official state marine mammal here in Florida. Relatives of the elephant, manatees spend a lot of time grazing on seagrasses in shallow water, and are sometimes referred to as sea cows. Because Florida manatees are an endangered species, it’s especially important that people know more about these wonderful animals and what we can do to protect them.

Manatee at Crystal River, © David Hinkel/USFWS

© David Hinkel/USFWS

Sadly, as we reported this spring, this has been a particularly brutal year for manatees. In fact, 2013 is now the deadliest year on record for the number of manatees killed: a total of 771 manatees as of November 5, 2013 and we still have nearly two months to go.

What made 2013 so deadly? It was due in large part to two unusual algal blooms, one on each coast. The toxic red tide bloom on the Gulf coast killed many manatees directly, while the “brown tide” in the Indian River Lagoon killed off much of their food supply. These two unprecedented events, coupled with the usual threats manatees encounter every year – especially injuries from watercraft – have dealt a significant loss to the population, estimated at around 5,000 animals.

With winter approaching, and so many manatees lost already, it’s more important than ever that they find safe, warm water in which to spend the next few months. The greatest long-term threat to manatees involves the loss of warm-water habitat that they need to survive. Manatees become susceptible to cold stress when water temperatures dip below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Because residential development has greatly reduced the natural warm-water springs used by manatees, many of the animals aggregate in the outfalls at electric power plants on cold winter days. A significant number of manatees could be lost in the next few decades if natural areas are not available to manatees as aging plants are shut down or experience equipment failure.

To help make traveling to and within warmer waters safer for manatees, a number of seasonal manatee slower-speed protection zones go into effect on November 15 throughout the state. Boaters can help these slow-moving animals by reducing their speed and being alert to the presence of manatees, such as seeing a snout, tail or a large swirl on the surface of the water. Obeying posted speed zones, wearing polarized sunglasses and watching out for manatees can all help save their lives.


You can also help manatees at our Wildlife Adoption Center! Click the photo to learn more.

There are also other ways that everyone, whether you live and boat in Florida or not, can help manatees. You can visit our website to learn more about these fascinating marine mammals, and share what you know with family and friends; conservation starts with awareness! You can also help by supporting programs that strengthen the Endangered Species Act, which has been vital to manatees’ survival, and Everglades restoration, which will be extremely important to their future. And of course, you can help by supporting Defenders’ efforts. We work to conserve and recover the Florida manatee by protecting habitat, reducing watercraft strikes, improving coastal policies and increasing enforcement of those policies. We advocate for officials and state wildlife agencies to preserve and restore natural springs, conserve seagrass habitat, expand protected areas, designate and enforce protective speed zones and safeguard state and federal policies that protect manatees.

Elizabeth Fleming is Defenders’ Florida Representative


Anyone who observes a sick, injured, orphaned, entangled or dead manatee, or witnesses someone harming or harassing these vulnerable animals, should immediately call the Florida Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), text TIP@MYFWC.com or call #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

59 Responses to “November is Manatee Awareness Month”

  1. Elaine Carter

    I was vacationing in Fort Myers several years ago and while I was swimming off Lovers Keys there were two Manatees near the shore. They were just a few feet from me. The Coast Guard kept an eye on them. They said they had not been in that area for a long time. It was a memory I will never forget.

  2. Pamela Barlow

    I feel for these wolves that have had there environment destroyed they cant forage for there cubs, they look for food and get shot. It’s wrong.
    Thank you

  3. Julie Butler

    Please protect manatee’s. They need our help and we need to help them. They have a right to be here to and live in peace and harmony.

  4. Tami Calliope

    For many years I lived on a small boat on the Loxahatchee River in Florida. Every winter the manatees would come, criss-crossed with livid scars from encounters with speedboats. One year I got in the water and swam around with a family of these gentle, sweet, curious creatures. The parents were covered in barnacles because they move so slowly; the baby, who nuzzled me and kept looking into my eyes, was only covered in moss. These moments were a high point in my life. That manatees, the original source of “mermaids”, are so disregarded and endangered breaks my heart. May they survive us.

  5. Eileen

    I had thought that all the necessary precautions where being taken. It is not like this is new, shocking information. People have been aware of this situation for a long, long, time. Wake up people, everyone has a reason on this planet and these gentle, threatened animals must be protected

  6. Sharon M Hall

    Ban motorized craft from manatee habitats. Stop taking habitat from them. Educate the American public on the natural treasures they should actively work to protect.

  7. Mary Ann Cassidy

    These Manatees are wonderful interesting creatures. Please help us save them from cruelty and abandonment!

  8. Carol Hope

    Can’t we care as much if not more than we do some 80million year old fossil. We need to be their protectors.

  9. Sylvia

    We must protect these friendly gentle and superb mammals!
    Respect slow boating, you may be able then to contemplate manatees in
    THEIR OWN habitat. Don’t forget we are the ones to invade their territory,
    so please RESPECT them.

  10. Shawn Lockwood

    They so need to be protected. I think Florida needs to stop the growth along the coast. Just because a few super rich can afford to ruin habitats doesn’t mean it should be allowed. They are only one vote; while many more people who could care less about their winter homes and would rather save the wild life and environment. So the most important people are the ones who will get after the leaders and demand protection. National parks should be set up so all can enjoy and keep the propelled watercraft away from them.

  11. Debby Scheitler

    I lived in the Florida Keys for over 25 years & I got the chance to observe the Manatees around our docks & when out on our boat.They are friendly gentle marine mammals.We also saw many Manatees with their babies & we also witnessed a lot of Manatees with injuries from boats.These are memories I will never forget!

  12. michele king

    I would like to see more awareness, education, and public knowledge regarding the Manatees. As they are a very important part of our living populations on our planet.

  13. Georgina Burns

    Thank you for caring about these fascinating creatures, I was so upset a few weeks ago when I saw people in boats invading the Manatees ..space.. I pray a safe place will be found for them.

  14. Ben Cachola

    These endangered adorable and gentle creatures need to survive for the next generation to see.

  15. pasquier

    tout etre vivant sur cette planéte mérite que l’on respecte sa vie et l’on doit tout faire pour ne pas la détruire

  16. Paula Hesterman

    We visited Florida and while rowing a small boat down a creek we saw a manatee with a baby. She was relaxed about our presence as she swam close to the bank and appeared to be feeding. We drifted and watched her for quite a long time.

    Manatees are such a lovely animals, I can’t think why anybody would want to harm or harass one.

  17. Martha & James

    What gentle mammals. Why do too many humans feel the need to kill, get rid of any wildlife? God created all wildlife for a reason. They are there to keep things in check, oh but watch out guys….here come more crazy people trying to get rid of you. The heck with what your roll is in the scheme of life in the wild.

  18. CrazySpirit

    The Manatee’s are a very slow moving creature and they deserve to be respected,and their habitats restored with everything they need to survive.And as far as boaters they need to slow their speed down and watch out for the slow moving Grandpa’s of the lakes and etc.They have as much right to be acknowledged and cared about as anything else.So rebuild the Habitats for the Manatee’s and the sooner the better,and make it mandatory that the Boaters slow down and watch for them,so they don’t kill them or harm them .

  19. Christina Anderson

    Manatees are gentle giants who live where they are threatened by people with power boats. It would be a shame if they were to become so harrassed that they became extinct. PLEASE, do everything in your power to protect the Manatees.

  20. pam dewitt

    We need to do a better job being a steward for the humanity of the mammals.

  21. sammy tanner

    Our Heavenly Father I pray for your hedge of protection over these gentle creatures.They need you help if they are to servive.I pray this in your Holy name.Amen

  22. Malva McIntosh

    Please help to protect these wonderful animals before is too late. We must take care of this planet and the animals in it. Thanks

  23. Eyad Buhaissi

    From Milwaukee – Wisconsin: We all sport animal preservation and quality of life. Please save the Manatees…. Humans + Animals + Nature = Life (the non-expire formula)…. Cheers 🙂

  24. Alan Mishler

    Wolves are an important part of the ecosystem. Past efforts at wolf extermination are well known. Such efforts can only be the result of ignorance and human arrogance. The wolf is the progenitor of our beloved domestic dogs. All life on this planet is related, and all life is precious. The risk to livestock from wild predators is negligible, and losses can be easily compensated. In any case, there is more at stake than economic considerations. Leaving protection to a few states and local political influences is an invitation to species extinction and irrational behavior. Species preservation is in the interest of the whole country, and all future generations. We are, for a time, caretakers for the future. Let us act accordingly.

  25. Alan Mishler

    Viva les manatees, and all other wildlife! Better to extinguish the power boats than the manatees.

  26. Eric

    Never had the pleasure of being in direct contact with these great creatures, but have always been fascinated by their curious and equally gentle nature.

  27. Terri Pigford

    Please let us be mindful of all animals in the ocean and living on land. They have a right to live peacefully uninterupted by humankind. Hopefully people will dig deep for compassion for all living creatures and treat them with respect and freedom to inhabit earth.

  28. Iris

    Keep up the good work! These are beautiful animals, and your efforts to protect them are so important. Thank you.

  29. Janis Menken

    it is imperative to maintain the balance of nature in our seas and shores, and keep these beautiful and important creatures alive and thriving!

  30. Lynette Sahnow

    Why is development allowed near the warmer waters that Manatees need?
    Habitat loss is such a losing battle for endangered species.. Stopping development in critical habitat areas should be the goal for wild species. We humans can live and survive just about anywhere.

  31. Marissa

    Please help save the manatees. These gentle creatures do not deserve this, it’s cruel.’

  32. Maruka

    Animals around the globe are counting on compassionate people like you to give them a voice and be their “heroes” by learning about the issues they face and taking action. Each of us have the power to save Animals from nightmarish suffering and best of all; it’s easier than you might think.

    The time has come Ladies and Gentlemen, to stop thinking of Animal Rights as distracting or less deserving of our time and energy than other struggles for social justice. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. All oppression, prejudice, violence, and cruelty are wrong and must be rejected no matter how novel the idea or how inconvenient the task.

    For those who think that we will never be able to achieve the dream of liberation from oppression, not just for human beings, but for all beings, regardless of race or gender or species, I have just three words for all of you: YES, WE, CAN. Thank you and thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Human Society of The United States.

  33. Susan Heil

    We must preserve and protect all living creatures for the generations to come. I do not understand why these states are making such a case against these wolves. Wolves are necessary to cull the weak and sick from elk herds etc. They do not hurt the elk population, they actually help to sustain it. What kind of people are spending all their time on this issue. Don’t they have anything better to do than worry about these amazing creatures. We must save them. We have the Wolf Sanctuary in Missouri. It is awesome to go and see these animals. They are trying to breed them so they can be released back into the wild. It is neat to go on wolf howls which they schedule through the year.

  34. Susan Heil

    We need to save Manatees also. I think we had some at our zoo, but not anymore. I have never seen one in the wild but that would be a thrill. Lucky people who have seen them. Hope they can save them down there in Florida.

  35. Anthony Kane

    So sad… Our human race needs to remember that we must fight for the innocent and for the animals who cannot fight for themselves. We as humans can do what we choose but animals do not have that option. We must fight for the innocent


    NECESSARIO URGENTEMENTE, salvar peixe-boi também. Eu acho que nós tivemos alguns em nosso jardim zoológico,.Tão triste … Nossa raça humana precisa lembrar que devemos lutar para os inocentes e para os animais que não podem lutar por si mesmos

  37. La Marca Monique

    Yes, we must fight for innocent animals, so often mistreated by “humans”…for money or mentally disturbed…protect them all and specially the manatees shown
    in this mail…

  38. Margaret Arelt

    Is there any thing being done to control what we in the water pollution control business call “non point” sources – that is, runoff of nutrients which gives rise to red and brown algae growth? Non point source pollution is really hard to control, but working with agricultural producers may help lessen the problem.

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