Do alligators bother manatees?

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Alligators and manatees have overlapping habitats. They often hang out together in sunny spots along the shoreline or spend time in warm-water areas. Occasionally alligators and manatees can be seen gliding through the same waters, each going their own way. And although alligators are predators while manatees have no apparent natural defenses, the manatees are still known to have no natural predators except humans.

So do alligators bother manatees?

No, they don’t. Actually, while alligators may bite the satellite tags attached to manatees and occasionally prey on manatee calves, they don’t ordinarily bother manatees. Attacks by alligators are very rare, and boat strikes still remain the prime cause of death among adult manatees.

Why are alligators not a threat to manatees?

1. Manatees are very large.

Though they are seemingly defenseless, the massive size of manatees is a pretty effective defense against alligators. Typically, alligators don’t chew their food, so they tend to prey on what they can swallow easily. Essentially, alligators eat what they can swallow by gulping it down in entirety or ripping it into chunks. And even young manatees are quite large for alligators to swallow.

2. Manatees have extremely thick hides.

The hides of manatees are very thick. Even after being cut by boat propellers they can still survive. So it is almost impossible for alligators to clamp onto the hides of manatees and rip anything loose except maybe the tail. Manatees also flex their thick hides when alarmed, making themselves more impervious to puncture. So while newborn baby manatees can be swallowed whole by alligators, their thick hides mean they are a digestive nightmare, making them undesirable for alligators to bother them.

3. The effort necessary to prey on manatees isn’t worth it.

Manatees usually come to the water surface every 3-5 minutes to breathe but can hold their breath in the water for 20 minutes or more when necessary. Rolling deep in the water trying to drown an animal as big as a manatee calls for an effort that isn’t worth it for an alligator, especially when easier alternatives are available. Alligators are cold-blooded, so they aren’t able to get worked up and motivated to chase a mammal as large as a manatee.

4. Manatees are speedy in water.

Manatees are quite swift in water. The sea cows swim at a speed of 5 miles per hour but can hit a speed of 15 miles per hour in short bursts. So their speed in water makes it very difficult for alligators to bother them. Even alligators as big as 12-foot-long usually give way to manatees. In fact, when manatees want to move through an area, they will swim right up to the alligator and bump or nudge it to move.

Unfortunately, manatees can’t just bump or nudge boats out of their way as they do to alligators. Collisions with boats often cause life-threatening injuries or death, with hundreds of manatees dying every year after being hit by boats. While most Florida counties have protection zones where boat access is prohibited or sailors are required to slow down, collisions with watercrafts are still the major threat to manatee survival.

Want to spend some time seeing and swimming with manatees? Visit Captain Mike’s Swimming With The Manatees website for more information on how to plan a remarkable manatee tour.

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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