Still wondering if spring is finally here? Wonder no longer. Large numbers of manatees are leaving their warm-water winter refuge near the Tampa Electric Company (TECO) discharge canal into the shallow-water feeding areas to the north off Gibsonton and south near Apollo Beach.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say that as many as 300 of the slow-swimming sea mammals may be on the move. As a result, state officials are urging boaters to slow down in these areas and obey posted speed limits.
Tampa Bay’s manatees have had a rough winter. These animals tend to concentrate in high numbers at this time of year which makes them more vulnerable to boat strikes. State law enforcement officers have increased patrols in these critical feeding areas and are strictly enforcing manatee-protection-zone speed limits.
Boaters can help by wearing polarized sunglasses which will make it easier to spot manatees in the water. Another way to spot a feeding manatee is to watch for the tell-tale, circular slicks on the surface of the water. To learn more about Florida’s manatees, visit MyFWC.com/Manatee. To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).