FWC warns boaters to watch for manatees migrating to main channels

CREATED Jan. 29, 2014

  • Print

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Recent changing temperatures mean more manatees will be moving between warm water refuges and the main channel of the Caloosahatchee River. 

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) urges boaters to use caution and watch out for manatees to prevent from hitting one.

"When we get a warm spell in the middle of our winter months like we had a couple days ago, a lot of manatees will migrate back down river to the sea grass flats so they can't eat, and consequentially, that's when most of our residents like to take their boats out as well," said FWC Officer James Suttles. 

One of the biggest problems Suttles encounters is boaters who are confused about "idle" and "slow" speeds. 

"Twenty-five miles per hour may be slow in a car, but it's actually pretty fast in a boat," Suttles said. 

Boaters driving through idle zones should have their engines at idle and in slow zones, the bow of the boat should still be in the water, Suttles said. 

"Once you start increasing your speed and your bow starts rising, you're not at slow speed," he said. 

Traveling at slow speeds allows manatees to hear boats approaching and get out of the way. 

Fisherman Jeff Shatto knows to be on the look out for manatees this time of year. 

"You look for disturbances in the water," he said. "And you just kind of shut your motor off there and drift past them." 

Anyone who sees a sick, injured or dead manatee should report it to FWC's Wildlife Alert at 1-888-404-FWCC.