Can you feed manatees in Florida?

Posted on · Posted in Blog
Posted by

Florida manatees, called Trichechus manatus latirostris, are a native of Florida and unique subspecies of West Indian manatees. They have existed in Florida and thrived in the waterways for millions of years. Often called “sea cows” due to their grazing habits, the large, tube-shaped mammals are gray in color with a whiskered face, leathery-looking skin, paddle-shaped tails, and elegant flippers. The average length of a grown manatee is 10 feet. Florida manatees exist throughout the peninsula of Florida and are protected by state and federal laws because they are an imperiled species.

Where are they found in Florida?

Florida manatees dwell in several aquatic habitats. They can reside in both salt and fresh waterways during the year, often preferring calmer estuaries, rivers, canals and bays around coastal Florida. However, in the winter, the animals tend to move to warmer waters and usually migrate to the natural warm-water springs or to discharged areas found near power plants. This migration helps them survive cold temperatures of winter.

Can you feed manatees in Florida?

No, you can’t and you shouldn’t try. Manatees are a protected species under the Marine-Mammal Protection Act passed in 1972, Endangered Species Act enacted in 1973, and Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Act created in 1978. Under these laws, you are not allowed to feed a manatee. Any attempt to feed a manatee in Florida is an illegal act that will bring punishment by the authorities. You also are not allowed to harass, pursue, wound, shoot, harm, molest, annoy or kill manatees. The law has created regulatory speed zones in areas where manatees move, live or travel seasonally or regularly.

What’s the punishment for feeding a manatee?

When found feeding a manatee in Florida, you will be charged for breaching state and federal manatee protection laws. If you are charged and convicted for violating a state protection law, you will pay a fine of up to $500 or be imprisoned for up to 60 days. If convicted for breaching federal manatee protection laws, you will pay a fine of up to $100,000 or be imprisoned for up to one year. In some cases, the punishment may include both a fine and a jail term.

To avoid such charges being brought against you:

  1. DO NOT feed manatees.
  2. DO NOT separate a cow from her calf.
  3. DO NOT attract manatees to your dock, marina or boat in any manner that may harm them.
  4. NEVER hit, harm or injure manatees.
  5. NEVER disturb resting manatees.
  6. DO NOT chase or pursue manatees from warm water areas.
  7. NEVER grab, kick, hold on, stand on, jump on or ride manatees.
  8. NEVER kill or hunt manatees.
  9. NEVER attempt to hook, fish for or catch manatees.
  10. NEVER block the path of a manatee.
  11. NEVER use a vessel to harass or pursue a manatee.

Want to have a manatee tour that is assured of no breaches of state or federal law? You need a manatee tour provider that prioritizes manatee protection, understands applicable laws and always ensures that all guests under their care are comprehensively informed of existing restrictions and correctly guided throughout the trip. At Captain Mike’s, you will enjoy the services of a knowledgeable, experienced and friendly captain and boat crew and be sure to avoid any such breaches. You also will undergo thorough preparation before you embark on your trip, ensuring that you know the dos and don’ts, and are able to enjoy yourself without having to worry about potential breaches. For more information on manatee s and memorable manatee tours, visit the “Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees” site.


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.

You might also like to read about