Florida’s manatee season officially begins on November 15th, when these animals begin to arrive in large numbers to enjoy our warm waters for the winter. Boaters should take note of the seasonal speed limits along rivers, canals and the Intracoastal Waterway. Many believe that these protective efforts are a major cause of the increase in manatee populations over the last 20 years. Surveys have documented the number of these animals increasing from 1,267 when first counted in 1991, to over 5,000 by 2010.
These increased numbers have led to a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to upgrade the status of the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.” According to published reports, the agency has received nearly 50,000 comments (the vast majority from members of the Humane Society) on the reclassification, and a decision is expected early next year.
In the meantime, anyone who sees an injured or distressed manatee is encouraged to call the Florida Wildlife Alert line at (888) 404-3922.