FLORIDA --- As Florida residents and visitors embrace the current cold weather conditions, the state's fish and wildlife species are feeling the impact as well.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says they are prepared and ready to prioritize its mission to save manatees.
"Our team of FWC staff, partners and volunteers are monitoring the status of marine species affected most by the cold," said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. "We are prepared in case rescues are needed."
Florida manatees are impacted most by the cold conditions. When the water temperatures drop, manatees gather in warm-water habitats such as discharged canals at power plants and natural springs.
FWC is asking boaters to be extra vigilant in watching for manatees in shallow waters near the coast and to obey all posted manatee speed zone signs.
"Boaters should avoid areas where large numbers of manatees are gathered," said Gil McRae, head of FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. "Aggravated animals should not be disturbed, as this could cause them to leave the warm water sites that help them cope with cold temperatures.
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).