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Florida’s Marvelous Manatees

Manatees are the lovable giants of Florida coastal waters.  They are gentle and slow-moving animals. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. During the winter months, manatees head for warm waters, such as springs and power plant discharges. So, this is the prime time of year for manatee viewing (see below). For the remainder of the year, manatees are widely dispersed.

How can I keep Manatees safe?

West Indian manatees in the United States are protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as well as the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978. It is illegal to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal. You can follow these tips to help keep manatees safe.

Mind your Manatee Manners

  • Look, but don’t touch when swimming or diving.Picture 075 - Copy
  • Practice “passive observation” and observe manatees from a distance.
  • Resist the urge to feed manatees or give them water.
  • Stash your trash. Discard fishing line, hooks, and other trash properly.
  • When boating, follow manatee speed zones.
  • Call 1-888-404 FWCC (3922) or #FWC or VHF Channel 16 to report injured, dead, tagged, or orphaned manatees, or if you see an manatee being harassed.

Where Can I see Manatees?

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission maintains an electronic list of some of the places where you can see the endangered Florida manatee in captivity or in the wild.

Manatee Fun Facts

  • Their closest living relative is the Elephant.
  • The average adult manatee is ~10 feet long and weighs 800-1,200 pounds.
  • In summer months, manatees can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts.

Teachers, you would be interested to know that Florida Sea Grant Agent, Maia McGuire, and partners have developed a FREE, downloadable Manatee Curriculum for 3rd graders. Learn more at