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November was Manatee Awareness Month

written by Ranger Andy Kilmer

Hello everyone! There’s a chill in the air and the cold fronts have already begun. Though we might have a few storms brewing up from the tropics in this crazy year, winter is still on its way. Nature is taking note and many migratory species are on the move. Soon misty mornings and our favorite chubby mermaids will be returning to Silver Springs State Park.

While recreational boaters on inland waters may have seen a sea cow or two this summer, November is the month that manatees are beginning to seek warmer waters inland en masse. Water temperatures on the coast are decreasing and manatees return to their favorite springs or man-made sources of warm water like ponds, canals, and outflows from power plant cooling systems. Florida’s springs hover at about 72°F year-round while coastal estuaries and rivers will begin to dip below that soon. Manatees do have a lot of blubber to protect themselves from the cold somewhat, but may suffer from cold-stress, frostbite, and could even die if they are in waters below 68°F.

As you may know, manatees that winter at Silver Springs have several hurdles on their journey upstream. Several sections of the Ocklawaha and St. Johns lack seagrass and other food. The Rodman Dam across the Ocklawaha, however, is a barrier that many believed would stop manatee migration entirely. After the dam was constructed in the 60s, locals assumed that manatees would never return. We are not sure when the animals cracked the code and first snuck in through the Buchman Locks… when you don’t believe they’re around and aren’t looking for them, these large, peaceful creatures are surprisingly easy to miss!

Manatee researcher Monica Ross, affiliated with the Save the Manatees organization and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, has spent years tracking and studying manatees in our area. By attaching geolocator beacons to the animals, she and her team have been able to track their movements and behaviors. In recent years greater numbers of manatees have begun to utilize Silver Springs and the Silver River more and more. The spring run provides a warm water refuge in winter and plenty of food all year round. Keep an eye out on the river, maybe you’ll see a series of ‘footprints’ left by a manatee tail’s wake or what looks like a bowling ball coming up to the surface to breathe. 

About us

Friends of Silver Springs State Park is a Citizen Support Organization (CSO), a non-profit volunteer organization, dedicated to preserving and enhancing Silver Springs State Park. We support Silver Springs State Park by providing volunteers, educating visitors, hosting events and raising funds for specific park projects.

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Check out our Membership Page and join the Friends of Silver Springs State Park in its mission to enhance and preserve this natural treasure.  Member Meetings will be announced.

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1425 NE 58th Ave, Ocala, FL, 34470

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