There is a small number of year around manatee residents in the Florida Keys. This number increases in the winter season due to migration from colder waters to the North. Florida Keys residents and visitors may encounter West Indian manatees swimming leisurely along the shoreline. These large, air-breathing herbivores are found in shallow, slow-moving waters where seagrass beds or vegetation flourish. Eating up to 150 pounds of plants each day, manatees typically weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds and reach about 10 feet in length.
Manatees are listed as a federally threatened species. Unfortunately, they are threatened largely due to human activity. Manatees are slow-moving and therefore unable to swim quickly away from boats; this often results in collisions that may cause injury or death to the creatures. In areas that are known manatee habitats, boaters should slow down and produce a minimal wake.
If you see a sick, injured, dead, or tagged manatee while in Florida, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Law Enforcement Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) and give the location of the animal; whether it is alive, dead, or injured; and how long you have been observing it.