What do I do if I hit a manatee while boating or find a stranded, injured, or dead manatee?

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Collisions with watercrafts is the largest cause of manatee mortality. The animals come to the water surface every 2-5 minutes to breathe and prefer to dwell in shallow waters. So they are highly susceptible to collision with any boat or watercraft moving fast through their habitat, especially when there isn’t enough clearance for the watercraft’s hull to pass safely over the backs of the manatees. Many living manatees have been hit at least once by watercrafts, suffering injuries that adversely affect their ability to mate, swim, eat and care for their young ones.

Extra vigilance on waterways

Slowing down while in manatee habitats is one of the best ways of reducing watercraft related injuries and death. But the boating community also must be extra vigilant on the waterways. Being watchful helps to keep manatees roaming freely and preserves them for future generations to enjoy.

So what should you do if your boat hits a manatee?

If your boat hits a manatee you must report the incident to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). That will ensure that the manatee is located and rehabilitated if it is only injured. Because injuries aren’t always obvious, you can observe the manatee for a short time to find out if it is hurt. Observe the animal for at least 15 minutes and determine the number of times it comes to the surface to breathe within intervals of 5 minutes. Since a manatee can remain submerged for up to 20 minutes at a time, coming to the surface frequently after the collision indicates injury.

Signs of troubled manatees

Apart from hitting a manatee with your watercraft, you may come across manatees that are in trouble due to other causes. Signs that a manatee is in trouble include:

boating in open water1. Red or pink wound
A red or pink wound indicates an open or fresh cut. Call the FWC immediately so they can stop the bleeding, dress the wound and prevent potential infection.

2. White or grayish-white wound
White wounds indicate that healing has occurred at a site of injury. However, there still may be internal injuries and the animal may need to be continuously observed. Call the FWC so they can give the sea cow proper attention.

3. Manatee tilting to one side
If you notice a manatee that is tilting to one side and unable to submerge, then it must be having trouble breathing or it is acting strangely. Call the FWC immediately.

4. Manatee entangled in crab trap lines
If you notice a manatee that’s entangled in a crab trap line, monofilament line or other debris, do not try to remove the debris yourself. That’s because the debris may be firmly embedded underneath the skin of the animal and requires the expertise of a trained veterinarian to assess, remove and repair the damage.

5. Manatee calf all by itself
If you see a manatee calf that’s alone and with no adults around it for a long stretch of time, then it may be an orphan and the FWC should be called. Remember, manatee calves usually remain dependent on the cows for up to 2 years. That means if a mother dies before weaning a calf, there is increased likelihood that the calf will not survive alone.

6. Manatee with a tracking device or “tag”
Manatees are tagged with satellite or radio transmitters to help researchers obtain information that can be used to protect them and their habitat. So if you see such manatees, report immediately to the FWC. Never try to remove the transmitter even if the manatee is in danger of entanglement — the tags come off whenever the animals are trapped.

Other things that you must report immediately to the FWC include:

1. Someone harassing a manatee
2. Boaters speeding inside protected areas
3. Dead manatees — autopsy can still be done to determine the cause of death and the dangers manatees face.
4. Beached or stranded manatee — and don’t try to push a stranded manatee back into the water.

Report a sick, injured, stranded, orphaned or dead manatee in Florida by calling 1-888-404-FWC (3922). You also can send a text message or write an email to TIP@MyFWC.com. For more information on manatees and manatee tours in Florida, 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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