Dolphin Tales: Springtime in Pelican Bay
If you look at a chart of Pelican Bay, which is on the east side of North Cayo Costa Island, you can see a tiny keyhole on the eastern shore, just south of the state dock. This is where the manatees gather for the warm waters in March and a bit of socializing before the migration to cooler waters begins in April. The West Indian manatees have returned to this area because of warmer water temperature. We have not seen them for months in the keyhole.
It is a bit of a celebration. It is breeding season. A mating herd is a free for all. You will see lots of churning water, flailing flukes and flippers. You might think the manatee are in distress but clearly, it is preservation of the species.
A single female, or cow, will attract up to a dozen males, or bulls. The reproductive rate for manatees is low and this is why we keep our distance not to disturb the mating process. On average, one calf is born every two to five years. The manatee gestation period is 13 months. Oh baby!
By the month of May, manatee will have migrated to cooler waters.
However, we may see resident manatee in our waters. It may be an elderly or injured manatee or a mom with a nursing calf. If there are three moms with nursing calves before the migration, one mom may adopt the other two and nurse all three through the summer months, enduring the warm waters of Southwest Florida.
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.