What are manatees like? | How many manatees are left and where are they? | Where do manatees live? | Mortality
The Florida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, is a grayish-brown, walrus-like animal weighing on average between 800-1,200 pounds and growing to approximately 12.7 feet in length. They are mammals, hence they breathe air, have body hair and nurse their young.
Manatees have a round, flattened paddle-shaped tail, and two front flippers. These flippers are used in steering while swimming, as well as for holding their food. While underwater, flaps close over their nostrils, to prevent water from interfering with breathing.
The newborn calves range from 3-5 feet long, and beginning only several weeks after birth, they start eating plants, such as seagrasses and algae.
What are manatees like?
Manatees are completely harmless and nonaggressive and are often shy and reclusive. The elephant is its closest relative.
How many manatees are left and where are they?
There are approximately 3,200 manatees remaining in the southeastern U.S. and they are concentrated in Florida year-round. During cold weather, manatees are attracted to the warm-water discharges of five FPL plants. Approximately 1,200 animals have been counted with aerial surveys at these facilities.
For almost 5 decades, FPL's Riviera power plant has provided a safe, winter haven for one of the state's most popular residents: the Florida manatee. Attracted by the warm water outflow from the plant, manatees have made the Riviera site one of their major gathering spots on Florida's east coast. To see the manatee in their environment, view the video clip (15 seconds, Windows Media Player file).
Where do manatees live?
The waters throughout the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and the northern coast of Brazil, as well as peninsular Florida, are home to West Indian manatees. Two subspecies of West Indian manatees exist today. One is found only in Florida and the other is located throughout the northern region of the Caribbean, and the coastal waters of North and South America. In the winter months, cold weather shortens their northernmost range to Florida, while in the summer, some swim as far north as Virginia and as far west as Texas. In a few cases, manatees have been observed to cover over 520 miles, each way, during their migrations. One manatee was known to swim 143 miles in only four days!
The West Indian manatee lives primarily in shallow, slow-moving river, saltwater bays, canals and coastal areas - especially where sea grass beds can be found. But in winter months, where the temperature dips below 68°F, manatees seek warm-water locales such as FPL's Riviera plant.
Manatee deaths throughout Florida have become an issue of serious concern. The primary causes of death are collisions with boats, cold weather and red tides as well as entanglement in fishing line, loss of habitat and chemical pollution. These manatees need our protection in order to survive into the next century and beyond.