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Florida Manatees the Gentle Sea Cow

April 06, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 102

Florida manatees, the gentle sea cow, are shy and harmless marine mammals. The manatees are large and weight close to a ton. They reach a length of almost 15 feet. Since their bodies are shaped like an elongated oval with a paddle-shaped tail, it provides them with effective propulsion.

A female manatee will mature in about five years and a male requires nine years to mature. When they mature they'll be capable of reproduction. The gestation period is about 13 months. Single births are most common. However, there have been recorded records of twin births but this is rarer. Babies are born weighing between 60-70 pounds. Calves remain with their mothers and nurse for as long as two years. They can live up to 60 years of age.

The gentle sea cows find havens in the canals and rivers. They favor the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico during the cooler winter months.

They cluster in and around the waters of Citrus County in the city of Crystal River and Homosassa. The water is warm and comes from the springs with an average temperature of 72 degrees. There have been up to 476 manatees found herding in these waters. If there is a sudden severe cold snap and the water temperature drops severely, it can kill them.

The manatees survive in salt or fresh water. They are totally vegetarian and adults eat 10 to 15 percent of their body weight each day or about 100 pounds of watery aquatic vegetation. Since they spend about half their time sleeping, it's a wonder that they are awake enough to eat so much vegetation.

They drift down to the bottom in shallow waters and sleep. They are air-breathing mammals and take a breath at intervals as long as 20 minutes. They rise to the surface, exhale noisily through the nostrils located on the tip of their snot, take a deep breath and sink back down to resume their nap.

Their most dangerous enemy is from human activity. The fast-moving motorboat with a propeller, spinning like a saw, cuts through their hide. Therefore, there are strict regulations enforced for boat operators. Operators of motorboats need to obey the slow speed, idle or no wake speed when the areas are known to have manatees. Boaters are not allowed into the forbidden zone. There are warnings posted in the sanctuaries.

One way to know if there are manatees in the boating area is to look for a swirl at the surface of the water or there may be the back of the mammal sticking out of the water.

Since the sea cow is by nature gentle, this encourages people to swim in waters where they gather, touching them and offering lettuce or other greens. It is illegal to feed manatees or harass them in any way. If a person is caught they could face paying a large fine.

These mammals also get caught in water-control systems or in nets and lines intended to catch fish and crabs. Their most serious threat comes from a loss of their habitat.

Fortunately, the manatees are protected in the United States under federal law. Florida passed the Manatee Sanctuary Act in 1978. Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1983.

The refuge is for the protection of the endangered West Indian Manatee. The refuge preserves the last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay. The bay forms the headwaters of the Crystal River. The warm water springs are havens that provide a critical habitat for the populations that migrate to this area each winter. It is home for more than 25 percent of the nation's population.

Do you want to swim with the manatees? Snorkeling is an excellent way to meet them up close and personal. Usually, you'll need to hire a guide or use a tour company that can instruct you how to carefully swim with these gentle creatures. They will provide you with a snorkel, snorkel mask and wet suit.

You'll need to swim with as little splashing as possible, enter the water slowly and quietly. Don't swim after them. Instead, let them come up to you and they'll let you take their picture. Don't poke or probe them at any time with any object, and that includes hands, arms or feet. Don't separate a cow from her calf or an individual from a group.

Florida manatees, the gentle sea cow, is an endangered species but you can still have a memorable experience while protecting them.

Florida manatees, the gentle sea cow, is an endangered species but you can still have a memorable experience while protecting them. For more information on these amazing mammals and swimming with manatees, click here... Florida Manatees

Source: EzineArticles
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