November is Manatee Awareness Month. While we of course are usually focused on pets, we also do care very much about local wildlife. Manatees—or sea cows—are one of the Sunshine State’s most beloved icons. We’re happy to help spread awareness about these gentle giants, and the struggles they face. A Lakewood Ranch, FL vet discusses these fascinating animals below.
Manatees are definitely not the most graceful of our sea creatures. These sweet, lovable animals are remarkably gentle, due to their lack of natural predators. They simply never really bothered to develop defenses, or even a fight-or-flight mechanism: they’re too busy enjoying our beautiful rivers. Manatees are herbivores, and eat a variety of both fresh and saltwater plants. They use their flippers to help them move along sandy riverbeds.
Manatees are warm water animals, and, like many Floridians, don’t do well in chilly temperatures. If you want to see wild manatees, visit TECO’s viewing center in Apollo Beach. They congregate there in cool weather, because the waters stay warm.
Florida’s manatee population is facing serious threats from many directions. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife, only 147 out of 2021’s 921 manatee deaths were of natural causes. Even more sobering: as many as one quarter of Florida’s manatees have died within the last two years. There are several different causes for the decline. As you may know, boat collisions are unfortunately very common. Many manatees bear scars from run-ins with propellers. Food scarcity is another issue. Manatees usually eat seagrass, with a major feeding ground being the Indian River Lagoon. However, there is a dearth of seagrass there currently, largely because of water contamination. This is causing a starvation crisis. Red tides are another threat.
How To Help
No one can save all of Florida’s manatees, but there are ways you can help them. If you find a manatee that is sick, injured, orphaned, or being harassed, contact the Wildlife Alert Hotline 888-404-FWCC (3922) or through marine radio on VHF Channel 16. Another way to help is by providing financial donations to wildlife organizations that protect manatees. You can also symbolically adopt a manatee through the Save The Manatee Club. Reducing your carbon footprint, keeping trash out of waterways, and following boating guidelines will also help.
Do you have questions about your own pet’s health or care? Contact us, your Lakewood Ranch, FLanimal clinic, today!