(PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLA) — As the weather cools, manatees head for the warm waters of the FPL Manatee Lagoon in Palm Beach County. Manatee season starts November 15 and runs through March 31. As air and water temperatures drop, manatees begin moving south toward warmer waters. During that time, Natural Resources Division implements Broward County’s Manatee Conservation Program and cautions boaters to be on the lookout for an increased number of manatees in the waterways. Boaters are also required to obey all posted manatee protection speed limit zones that go into effect throughout the state. Although manatees are large, they can be difficult to see from a boat since they often swim or rest just below the water’s surface.
To avoid hitting manatees, boaters should wear polarized sunglasses and watch for the large tell-tale circular ripples on the surface of the water (manatee “footprints”). If a manatee is spotted, the sighting can be reported by using the County’s “I Spy a Manatee” mobile app available for free download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. In addition to allowing users to report sightings of manatees, the app provides maps of the County’s state-regulated manatee protection and boating safety zones while they are out on the water.
Common areas of manatee presence include the Lauderdale Power Plant cooling lakes off the South Fork New River, the Port Everglades Power Plant cooling canal and FPL’s Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach. All three areas function as warm-water refuges for manatees.
If you see a sick, injured or dead manatee, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at (888) 404-FWCC (3922), *FWC or # FWC on a mobile phone. It is helpful to have photos or videos of the animal and to provide the exact location. Spotters are also encouraged to note the observation time, the approximate size, the nearest public boat ramp and a contact number.