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Posted by Victor Crew on

Jody Talks About Manatees

If you are ever on the coast of Florida in winter,and have the chance, go to a State Park or wildlife preserve that has mantees. These huge water mammals are interesting, gentle, and protected. Here’s some more info on them.

West Indian manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. The have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. The manatee’s closest relatives are the elephant and the hyrax (a small, gopher-sized mammal). Manatees are believed to have evolved fro a wading, plant-eating animal. The west Indian manatee is related to the West African manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the dugong, and Steller’s sea cow, which was hunted to extinction in 1768. The average adult manatee is about 10 feet long and weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds.

Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas – particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species. Within ghe United States, they are concentrated in Florida in the winter. In summer months, they can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts, but summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are more common.

Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. They can swim upt to 20 miles per hour in short bursts but they usually only swim about three to five miles per hour. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatees are completely herbivorous. They eat a large variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants and can consume 10-15% of their body weight in vegetation daily. Because they are mammals, they must surface to breate air about every three to five minutes. When resting, they can stay under water as long as 20 minutes.

West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. Some die of natural causes but a high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. These occur mainly from watercraft collisions, ingestion of fishing equipment, and loss of habitat.

Manatees are an endangered species and are protected by federal and state laws. If you ever get to see them, you will understand why they are so interesting and worth saving for future generations.

Posted by Victor Crew on

Jody Goes to Homosassa Springs

The next time you are headed to Florida, think about stopping at Homosassa Springs. Visitors to the Wildlife State Park can see West Indian manatees every day of the year from the park’s underwater observatory in the main spring. The park also showcases native Florida wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American aligators, American crocodiles, and river otters.

Even in winter, with its cooler days, there are many reasons to visit the park. You can start your visit with a leisurly pontoon boat ride down Pepper Creek to the wildlife park. Along the way you may see ospreys nesting, limpkins, herons or egrets wading in the creek, wood ducks swimming along, not to mention turtles sunning on logs, fish and, maybe even an otter.

Once you get off the pontoon boat you can walk leisurely along the elevated boardwalk system for a great view of the wildlife, including a Florida panther, cougar, bears, bobcats, deer, alligators and a wide variety of wading birds, birds of prey, and songbirds.

During the winter months with the gate open in the Long River bridge, the wild manatee have access to the warmer waters of the first-magnitude spring. On colder days, you may see dozens of wild manatees in the spring and spring run and thousands of fresh and salt-water fish that are free to come and go.  The Fish Bowl, a floating underwater observatory, offers an unequalled, below-the-surface view of manatees and fish in the clear spring environment. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park’s Fish Bowl is probably the only place in the world where you can enjoy an underwater, close-up view of manatees without getting wet.

There is also a Reptile House, Children’s Education Center, a picnic pavilion to enjoy your own picnic lunch, a cafe with beverages and snacks, and two gift shops.