What are manatees?
The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus), or sea cow, is a large plant-eating aquatic mammal commonly found in shallow coastal waters, rivers, canals, and springs of Florida. They range in color from gray to brown, and are seal-shaped in appearance, with flat, rounded tails. Adult manatees average 9.8 feet in length and weigh over 1,000 pounds.
Where are manatees found in Palm Beach County?
Manatees are present in Palm Beach County year round and are most common during winter months, when many migrate to the warm water discharge at the Florida Power and Light Riviera Beach Power Plant. This area, within Lake Worth Lagoon, is recognized as one of the most important water manatee refuges on the east coast of Florida. Manatees are also commonly seen near Jupiter Inlet, Munyon Island, Boynton Inlet and Lake Wyman. They are often observed swimming, resting, or feeding near submerged seagrass beds. In dark colored water, manatees are more difficult to see, but may be identified by their dark, round snouts which break the surface of the water to breathe. Large, circular swirls in the water may also indicate the presence of manatees.
What are the major threats to manatees?
Many manatee mortalities are human-related. The primary threat from humans in Palm Beach County is collision with watercraft which accounts for 35% of manatee strandings. Other causes of human-related manatee mortalities include being crushed and/or drowned in canal locks and flood control structures; ingestion of fish hooks, litter and monofilament line, entanglement in crab trap lines; and vandalism. Loss of habitat is also a serious threat facing manatees. High mortality, primarily associated with human activity, as well as a low reproductive rate and loss of habitat continue to keep the number of manatees low and threaten the future of the species.
To report violations, manatee injuries, or deaths, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC.