Manatee Behavior

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Manatees are pretty incredible marine mammals. Sure, they’re kinda dorky looking (some people refer to them as sea cows), what with their snub noses; round, stubby flippers; fat, cigar shaped torsos; and that big fan of a tail.

But one just has to love the manatees – they’re so darn cuuutteeee!

Have you ever seen a manatees face/head from the side? As you meet them on our tours, mosey over to the manatee’s side and take a look: The manatee is smiling! (Ok. Maybe not; but it sure looks as if it’s smiling.) Its mouth often has a turned up appearance when closed.

First, a bit of important (but kinda boring) facts about manatees:

  • They’re on the endangered species list. (You can learn more about how to help them by visiting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation’s page on helping manatees.)
  • Manatees are Florida’s state marine mammal.• They may have tiny eyes and ears for their size, but it’s believed that manatees can see pretty darn well.
  • They tend to grow to 10-12 feet in length and can weigh from 1500-2000 pounds. Petite they are not.
    They can live 50-60 years in the wild.
  • Manatees are herbivores; they eat freshwater and marine plants
  • Most of the country’s manatees live in Florida, but they’ve been known to migrate up the East Coast as far north as North Carolina (although recent years have seen some manatees as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts). They also range as far west as the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.
  • They like their water warm. Anything below 68 degrees F and they skedaddle – but they do slowly (see below).
    Manatees move veeerrryyyy slooooly as they make their way along Florida’s streams and rivers looking for tasty grass and warm spots in which to rest. They typically move at about 5 mph

Some really fun and sweet manatee facts:

  • They like to surf! They’ve been seen surfing on fast moving water . They also perform barrel rolls when playing.
  • They may move slowly most of the time, but they’ve been clocked at 15 mph for short bursts.
  • Manatees are lick-their-plate-clean eaters: They can easily devour 1/10th of their weight (100 pounds!) of grass and algae in a day.
  • Manatees have been known to “grab” a visitor’s hand with their flippers, roll over and request a belly scratch. Naturally, you should comply.
  • Manatee babies nurse from their mothers while underwater.
  • Manatees can squeal. Often with excitement (see the surfing fact, above), but also when they’re scared. They squeal to communicate with other manatees.

We want you to enjoy your manatee tour with us, but we do have some important rules:

  • Never, never, never approach a manatee. Let it come to you. If you’re patient and stand still, these friendly and curious animals probably will move closer in order to check you out.
  • Also, never touch a manatee with both hands; one is sufficient.
  • Never separate a calf from its mother. You wouldn’t separate a human baby from its mother without permission and we doubt a manatee mother ever would give such an OK. Besides, she’s much bigger than you and she can swim at 15 mph when necessary (see above). Can you swim 15 mph?
  • Do NOT attempt to hitch a ride with a manatee (even one-handed) or get on a manatee’s back. You WILL be removed from the tour if you do (and you could face prosecution).

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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