Can Manatees Bite You?

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You’ve heard of manatees. Perhaps you’ve seen one in a video or image. And now, you want to be with them in the water. But there’s one thing holding you back—you fear that a manatee can be hostile and bite you, and that fear makes you uneasy about being in the water with them.

Can a manatee bite you?

Well, no. A manatee won’t bite you!

Manatees are naturally gentle and docile creatures, and they love human company, too. When you float in the water and encounter them, manatees will monitor your movements keenly and tolerate you. If they sense that you are a danger to them, they will avoid you and move away. Actually, manatees will not attack you even if you behave inappropriately—though such behavior is highly discouraged.

Lack of biting teeth

The main reason why manatees do not bite is their lack of typical biting teeth. They don’t have incisors for biting flesh or canines for tearing flesh. Instead, the only teeth they have are molars, which are primarily used to grind food during chewing. So manatees are not dangerous because they lack the weaponry for aggression. Also, manatees have a snout that is shaped in a manner that prevents them from using their teeth to attack or bite.

Natural herbivores

Manatees won’t bite you because they don’t feed on flesh. They are generally vegetarians that survive by feeding on seaweed in shallow waters in harbors, lagoons and estuaries. As herbivores, manatees have only molar dentition to help them grind vegetation, and no teeth for grasping and biting flesh.

Since they consume a lot of plants that tend to hold and wear down their teeth, manatee molars are continuously replaced. New teeth come in at the back of the jaw and move forward horizontally about a centimeter a month while the front molars ultimately fall out and are replaced by teeth from behind.

No natural predators

Another reason why manatees do not bite is their lack of natural predators. Because of the absence of manatee predators in the wild, the gentle giants are generally not adapted for self-defense. That is, they do not have body weapons for attacking perceived enemies because such weaponry is often unnecessary. And although they are fairly large, they move too slowly to gather enough momentum to cause injury to humans and other animals upon collision. Besides, the body of a manatee is so soft that even if a manatee crashed into you, it would simply be like a slow nudge with a huge pillow.

Great buddies in the water

Manatees are beautiful animals that are curious, friendly and adorable, so you will have a wonderful time with them in the water. When they realize there is human activity in the water, the peaceful sea giants lumber slowly to the area out of curiosity. And if they see you in the water and sense no danger, they will eagerly approach and interact with you without aggression.

When you’re in the water, you are expected to follow manatee manners which are guided by a rule of passive observation of the animals. Passive observation means you should gently float in the water with the least possible noise and disruption and avoid interacting with the animals unless they initiate it first. Since the animals are naturally curious, they will spot you in the water, move closer and seek to relate with you.

No matter how closely you approach them or how nervous and jumpy you are, manatees will show no aggression. Even though you may be thrashing and panicking—actions that can cause some animals to attack out of self-defense—manatees will typically not react aggressively, often choosing to move away instead of attacking. There is no danger in being in the water with these amazing creatures.

Misguided fear of manatee aggression

Though manatees do not usually respond violently to humans, their sheer size and power can be intimidating. Some people have been unnecessarily frightened when their boat capsized after an accidental collision with a manatee. What they saw was a manatee attempting to swim away to safety in deep water. But these fears are mistaken because they are based only on the perceived size and power of the animals, not their actual behavior.

This doesn’t mean manatees completely lack behavioral aggression. Like every animal, a cornered and harassed manatee may display aggression to save its life. For example, when manatee males compete to boost their breeding chances with receptive females, they may be violent toward each other. Equally, manatee mothers do not often tolerate danger to their calves. In a nutshell, instances of reported manatee attacks are almost all out of self-defense or reproductive and resource monopolization.

Would you like to be in the water with manatees? Want to enjoy a wonderful outdoor trip that includes a thrilling experience with these beautiful and generally docile creatures? At Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees, we offer delightful and memorable manatee tours in Crystal River, Florida. Our tours are guided by skilled and experienced captains who will ensure you behave respectfully around these gentle creatures. Book your tour with Captain Mike’s and enjoy an outing of a lifetime. For more information, visit Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees website.

Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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