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Multiple Cold Fronts Bring In Hundreds Of Manatees

Two volunteers in bright lifejackets sit on a pontoon boat that has a banner reading, "Manatee Watch."
Two Manatee Watch volunteers patrol the spring on the Tiny Toon boat. Photo courtesy of Kate Spratt, HSWSP.

By Kate Spratt, Park Services Specialist, HSWSP

Manatees, manatees, and more manatees! We’ve had some excellent weather to view wintering manatees in the Homosassa Spring, spring run, and sanctuaries. Some recent, strong cold fronts dropped nighttime temperatures into the mid-thirties, but not quite freezing. Strong winds out of the east amplified the effects of low tide, causing the water to be much lower than usual. Manatees congregated in dense groups outside of the park in deeper areas of the river. Still, over 200 manatees were estimated to be in the area.

Save the Manatee Club adoptees Ariel and Betsy, along with rehabilitation manatees Shantay and Heinz, are spending the “manatee season” in the paddocks and in-ground pool. Much like a spa, the manatee pool is heated for their comfort, and they spend a great deal of time enjoying the pool’s warmer water. The four residents readily consume their daily meals, totaling more than 400 pounds per day! Betsy and Ariel are always first to arrive, with Heinz close behind and Shantay bringing up the rear. Each uses their prehensile lips to draw in a head of lettuce and munch it down, leafy end first, all the way to the stem. There are usually some turtles and fish in the pool, and they have been seen cleaning up the scraps that the manatees leave behind.

Park rangers and volunteers have kept a keen eye on the wild manatees throughout the season. Manatees that may need intervention are reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), along with those that have GPS tags. As a result of these efforts, several manatees in need have been rescued by FWC. Park volunteers utilize kayaks and the Tiny Toon boat as part of our Manatee Watch program to observe manatees and provide public education on manatee safety and awareness.

Interested in volunteering at Homosassa Springs or other Florida state parks? Then visit volunteers.floridastateparks.org (external link) for available volunteer opportunities.

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