Manatee Fun Facts
Why Manatees Prefer 72 Degree Water and Other Fun Facts
You cannot say we did not warn you: swim with the manatees on one of our manatee tours and you will fall in love with the big, gentle galoofs. Wildly. Madly. Deeply. And like most lovers of animals, you’ll want to know everything about the new object of your affection. Hence, some fun manatee facts below:
Every sweetheart has a nickname. Manatees are no different. “Sea Cow” is the moniker given — lovingly — to these wonderful creatures. The don’t really look like cows. They’re snouts are too long, they have flippers instead of hooves and their tail is as large as a giant fan — no twitching at flies while chewing grass. They get the endearment for their size and the slowness of their movements. A better nickname might be “Sea Elephant” or “Sea Hyrax,” for it’s for it’s believed manatees are distant cousins of elephants and hyrax’s.
Manatees generally swim s.l.o.w.l.y: about 3-5 miles per hour. However, manatees have been clocked at 20 miles per hour in short bursts.
The manatees that become your swimming buddies in Florida actually are West Indian Manatee. Florida is about as far north as this species of manatee will come in the winter months. They search for warm water – as big as they are, they don’t carry a lot body fat. They chill easily and prefer warmer water. Florida’s manatees generally live in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer, when gulf water heats up. Winter is the best time to see the manatees in Florida. Similar to residents of the U.S. who flock to the state in the winter to escape the cold, manatees frequent Florida’s coastal inlets, streams and lakes most often in December, January, February and March — they prefer their water temperature to be 72 degrees. The largest population of manatees are in our area from Nov-March. There is a spring, summer, and fall population of manatees of about 35-50 in Kings Bay, Crystal River, Florida. Gestation period of manatees is 13 months which means that a lot of calves are born in Crystal River the following spring of the year.
Be careful with your swimming ensemble’s color coordination: It’s believed manatees can see in color — you don’t want to blind them with lime green and orange swim trunks….
Spend a good amount of time with a manatee on one trip. Return next year and don’t be surprised if a manatee recognizes — it’s believed they have long-term memory.
Manatees generally have one calf at a time. It takes about 12 months for a baby to gestate inside its mother, but it takes just 12-18 months to wean the “little” one. Calves are born weighing in at 66 pounds, quickly packing on the pounds: they can gain 700 pounds in one year. Adults tend to weigh 900-1,200 pounds (males are larger).
For fun, manatees eat. For “work,” manatees eat. If not sleeping, manatees tend to…eat. They sleep about half the time. Their main meal is sea grass. Their favorite dessert is…sea grass. They eat 10-15 percent of their body weight each day. That comes to 90-180 pounds of sea grass a day, depending on the size and sex of the mammal.
Click here for information on the manatee being an endangered species.