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Dolphin Tales: Manatees are back

By Capt. Cathy Eagle - | Dec 9, 2020

Believe it or not, manatees are “snowbirds.” Just when the weather starts cooling off, they come into our area for the warmer water. Manatees cannot tolerate water temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods of time. This is why during the winter months the population is concentrated in peninsular Florida. Many manatees rely on the warm water from natural springs and power plant outfalls.

Manatees are typically here from November to April. During the summer months, they may travel as far north as New York and as far south as South America. They prefer to travel along channels and shorelines where food is plentiful. Their diet consists primarily of seagrass and eelgrass. The manatee can eat 10% of their body weight in grass every day. They can reach lengths of over 14 feet and weigh over 3,000 pounds. They are grayish-brown in color and have sparse hairs spread across their bodies, with bristles around their muzzle or snout.

You can view the manatee in the keyhole or manatee hole off of Pelican Bay, Cayo Costa State Park. The keyhole is just south of the state dock in Pelican Bay. I see them there during the day all winter long unless we have a cold snap and the water temperature drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Occasionally we see an alligator or crocodile cruising by as well. Another favorite spot is Matlacha Pass. The manatee migrate out from the local canals into the pass at night to feed. They graze from 6-8 hours a day. Hence, the nickname the sea-cow.

Capt. Cathy Eagle has spent over 40 years boating in our local waters. As a professional charter captain she specializes in dolphin and nature tours. Visit CaptainCathy.com or call 239 994-2572.