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Florida’s Endangered Manatees

Posted by Jody on September 14, 2011

Manatee Cow and Calf (US Fish & Wildlife Service photo, from Wikimedia Commons)

One of our favorite places to visit is Venice Beach in Venice, Florida.  We were once told by friendly local folks that we should be able to view Florida’s endangered manatees and dolphins from the jetty.  So when we headed to Venice’s South Jetty at Humphris Park to watch a beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunset, we also went with hopes of seeing the local marine life.  To our great delight, we really were able to spot both endangered manatees and dolphins!  Because we have spotted dolphins on many beach trips before, the real highlight of the evening was to see the easygoing “sea cows,” even if they were mostly submerged. It was so exciting to see a manatee in its natural environment, slowly lumbering along in the inlet.

The manatee (aka: West Indian manatee – Trichechus manatus) is the official state marine mammal of Florida. The West Indian manatee has been listed as an endangered species since 1967. In 1978, through the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, Florida designated the entire State as a “refuge and sanctuary for manatees”. Today, the greatest threats to the survival of the endangered manatee are collisions with boats and the loss of Florida’s warm water habitats.

“Manatees move between fresh-water, brackish, and saltwater environments. They prefer large, slow-moving rivers, river mouths, and shallow coastal areas such as coves and bays.” (US Fish & Wildlife Service) These strictly plant eating “gentle giants” are not a rare sight along Florida’s shallow coastal areas and slow-moving rivers.  In fact, Florida’s endangered manatees can be found in 46 out of 67 Florida counties. In the United States and its territories, West Indian manatees are known to or are believed to inhabit areas of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Puerto Rico.

Manatee (NASA photo, from Wikimedia Commons)

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has a very informative article on Florida’s endangered manatee which includes their behavior and diet, threats to their survival and efforts for their recovery.

Sadly, we do not have an official state marine mammal of New Mexico.  We do have an official state question, though. “Red or green?” It’s usually a good idea to go with the locals’ suggestions in New Mexico, too.

Have a great day at the beach!  -J-

If you’d like to read another article on Venice area beaches click here.

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