The winter season is the hottest time to see one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles in the country — Manatees! Each winter, thousands of West Indian manatees gather along Florida’s coasts, rivers and freshwater springs to stay warm. But it hasn’t always been so easy to spot them.
Their status has recently improved from federally endangered to threatened. In 1991, only 1,250 manatees existed in U.S. waters; today, there are around 14,000 to 16,700!
West Indian Manatee Fast Facts
Scientific name: Trichechus manatus
Subspecies: Florida manatee and Antillean manatee
Range: U.S.: Gulf and Atlantic coasts from Texas to Massachusetts; Mexico and Central America to northern South America; Caribbean Islands
Eats: Seagrasses and other aquatic plants
Size: 8.4-11 feet long; 650-1,000 pounds
Other relatives: Amazon manatee, African manatee, dugong, Steller’s sea cow (extinct)
Life span: 60 years or more (“Snooty,” a captive manatee reported to be the world’s oldest, lived to be 69.)
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