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!