During Thanksgiving we gather from far and near with loved ones and those we haven’t seen in years. We endure long car rides and sometimes stressful plane rides. We endure this to unwind from our fast-paced lives, be close to others, and of course feast! Are we alone? Our large marine friends may share more with us than facial hair.
During the summer months, manatees travel freely through Florida’s rivers and coastal waters, and some even leave the state. However, from November through March, manatees are homebound to gather in warm water refuges in Florida—which can have as many as 2,500 individuals! During these gatherings, manatees enjoy the warm waters and spend time feasting on delicious algae and a variety of grasses. Their time spent in warm water gatherings protects them from the cold and helps their bodies work less and relax more.
While we can wear sweaters to keep us warm, manatees have little body fat (despite their plump appearance) and depend on the warm waters during cold weather. Though we may feel sad if we miss Thanksgiving feasts, manatees feel worse. Manatees who don’t make it to warm waters can suffer from cold-stress syndrome, which results from their inability to maintain their bodies’ warmth at low temperatures. Manatees in this kind of distress can be rescued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is part of a network of rehabilitation facilities that help rescue, rehabilitate, and release manatees back into the wild.
As fellow lovers of warmth and delicious meals, it’s important to be aware that manatees are currently on the move returning to their hearth—just like us.
Here are some things you can do to help manatees reach their “Thanksgiving” feast:
When traveling in waterways, avoid seagrass or shallow areas to give manatees space.
Recycle your monofilament fishing line.
Participate in shoreline, beach, and roadside cleanups.
Adhere to slow speed zones and use FWC manatee and boating safety zones maps when planning trips.
Learn more about FWC’S Wildlife Alert Hotline and manatee rescues.
Share your interest in manatees with others!
To learn more about Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and our commitment to manatee rehabilitation, visit our Manatee Critical Care Center and meet Irma and Amelia, or watch The Case of Vilanzo, the Cold Stressed Manatee.