Why should you not touch manatees?

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Lumbering in the warm waters and looking like giant, soft squishy gray pillows, manatees are truly a sight to behold. Seeing them, you would want to jump into the water and swim with them immediately! They are so placid, don’t bite and aren’t known to harm anything, so there is no imminent danger in being around them. They spend most of their days diving to dine on the marine vegetation and resting lazily in the water and are always curious about anything that enters their habitat. So you can take advantage of their calm and curious nature to enjoy spending time with them. But why should you not touch manatees?

Preserving their natural behavior

You are not supposed to touch manatees because that can trigger a change in behavior in the animals. Manatees are already an imperiled species because of their easygoing and curious nature, which predisposes them to several risks including being mowed down by speed boats. But getting accustomed to human touch and being around people could increase the danger significantly since the animals most likely would lose their natural fear of humans and boats. Getting used to human touch also could impair other behavioral patterns such as feeding, sheltering and breeding, causing problems to the endangered species.

Highly-sensitive marine animals

Manatees are very sensitive mammals. Slight human actions can induce extreme consequences for them. For instance, if they feel threatened by human actions, they may choose not to move into warmer, safer waters. As a result, they may be exposed to cold water and suffer cold-stress syndrome — a condition that causes severe stress, injury and death in extreme cases. And when the animals get used to random hugging and petting by humans, they quickly learn to approach humans for a scratch or belly rub, increasing the likelihood that they could be chopped by a boat — presently the most frequent cause of manatee deaths in Florida.

Passive manatee observation

It is important to remember that the best practice for interacting with all kinds of wild animals is passive observation. You only get close enough to see the animals clearly without touching, disturbing or harassing them. Harassment means any activity capable of altering their natural behavior and creating the likelihood of danger for the animals. Such actions include attempting to hook, hold, snag, grab, hit, ride or punch a manatee. Harassment also includes trying to feed or give water to a manatee, moving your hands or objects toward a manatee and poking, prodding or stabbing one with your hands.

Touching a manatee is illegal

You also should not touch a manatee because it is against the law. The number one rule in Florida’s Manatee Sanctuary Act is that touching these slow-moving marine mammals is outlawed. According to the FWCC Guidelines, you can only look, but not touch manatees. Touching manatees also may lead to a violation of the U.S. federal laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Ordinarily, touching a manatee is punishable under the Manatee Sanctuary Act, with a fine of up to $500 and/or a jail term of up to 60 days. But if touching an animal is deemed extreme or results in its injury or death, then the Federal Protection Laws may be applied with up to a $50,000 fine and/or up to 1 year imprisonment.

The restrictions and punishments may seem harsh for a simple touch but considering the magnitude of harm inflicted upon the animals by humans, they aren’t. For instance, in Florida alone, up to 87 manatees die every year due to human activities, especially collision with boats. Since Florida has a total manatee population of just over 3,800, a death rate of 87 animals per year is a massive loss. The penalties help curtail the seemingly harmless human actions that are threatening to wipe out manatees entirely.

At Captain Mike’s, we are committed to manatee tours that respect the animals and their habitats and are tailored to obey all the USFW guidelines. As an experienced tour provider, we know that your actions affect the quality of interactions you have with the animals and impact your enjoyment of the experience. We will ensure that you are properly guided, follow the directions from law enforcement officers and manatee volunteers, keep the appropriate distance from the animals and make the most of every minute you spend with the sea giants. For more information on manatees, manatee tours and the do’s and don’ts when in manatee sanctuaries, 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.

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