Florida and its surrounding waters are home to manatees, also known as sea cows. When the waters cool in the winter, these friendly creatures make their way to freshwater springs due to the springs' constant 72 degree year-round temperature.
One of the best places to view manatees in our area is Blue Springs State Park in Orange City, FL. Blue Springs offers a safe haven for the animals that is accessible to them via the cooler waters of the St. Johns River. The springs offers a wooden path along the edge of Blue Springs run with several viewing areas to get up close to these majestic creatures.
Blue Springs encourages people to visit the manatees and experience something that is truly unique to the state of Florida, but there are a few things to keep in mind to help protect the animals and humans that interact nearby.
Due to the protection of manatees under the Endangered Species Act, the park closes all water activity, including swimming and tubing, in the spring until further notice and the manatees have vacated the area in the warmer months.
In addition, the FWC offers the following guidelines related to viewing manatees:
1) Look, but don't touch manatees. Also, don't feed manatees or give them water. If manatees become accustomed to being around people, it can alter their behavior in the wild, perhaps causing them to lose their natural fear of boats and humans, which may make them more susceptible to harm.
3) If a manatee avoids you, do not chase the animal for a closer view.
4) Give manatees space to move. Avoid isolating or singling out an individual manatee from its group and do not separate a cow and her calf.
5) Keep hands and objects to yourself. Don't attempt to snag, hook, hold, grab, pinch, hit or ride a manatee.
6) Avoid excessive noise and splashing if a manatee appears nearby. The manatee may be resting and may surface without being aware of your presence. Noise and activity may startle the animal awake, which may put it in harm’s way if it is frightened and leaves the area.
7) Finally, when boating in manatee waters such as the St. Johns River, please adhere to all manatee zone laws, and keep watch for them as boat propellers are the number one killer.
Abiding by these rules make a difference. The Florida Manatee was recently removed from the Endangered Species list, thanks to Floridians following these laws and guidelines when interacting with them.