South Florida’s manatee season is officially under way. Now through March 31, 2015, as air and water temperatures drop, manatees begin moving south toward warmer water and seasonal manatee protection zone speed limits go into effect.
Broward County’s Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division cautions boaters to be on the lookout for greater numbers of manatees moving into the County’s waterways and to adhere to seasonal boating speed zones.
During manatee season, staff from the agency has counted more than 1,200 manatees in the County’s waterways, which may represent 20 percent of the entire manatee population in Florida.
During very cold spells, the majority of manatees can be found in the warm water refuges of the Lauderdale Power Plant cooling lakes and Port Everglades Power Plant cooling canal. During warmer periods, manatees move into surrounding canals and the Intracoastal Waterway to forage, thus increasing the chance of dangerous manatee/boater interaction.
Statewide, 72 manatees were killed by boats in 2013 with two of those deaths occurring in Broward County. Through October 2014, 56 manatees were killed by boats in Florida, two of those in Broward County.
To avoid striking manatees, vessel operators should obey all posted speed limits, wear polarized sunglasses to help spot them in the water, and watch for the large, telltale circular slicks on the surface of the water (manatee “footprints”) that indicate their presence.
Anyone who spots a sick, injured, dead, or tagged manatee is urged to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Wildlife Alert Number at (888) 404-3922. Cellular phone customers: *FWC or # FWC.
For information, call (954) 519-1270, or visit Broward.org/NaturalResources.