Manatees are mammals that live in the water

West Indian manatee

In the winter season, 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 endangered species. Unfortunately, they are endangered 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 only 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.

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