FWC officials warn boaters to watch out for manatees

Author: Christina Lusby
Published: Updated:

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- If you are heading out on the water, watch your speed and watch out for manatees.

As the water cools in the Caloosahatchee River, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials are looking to protect the manatees as they swim about.

“During the winter months, when the water gets cooler, these manatees migrate up the rivers and into our canals and fresh water springs in order to find warmer water,” said FWC Officer Stuart Spoede.

Their swim to small areas is why FWC is on the water.

“I have personally written 20, 30 warnings and multiple tickets so far.”

Officials are out warning boaters to slow down to idle speed and read the signs indicating it’s a manatee zone.

“You’ll see their backs are normally crisscrossed with scars from impact with boats,” said Spoede.

Riding up the river to a small canal, manatees gathered together in a safe haven.

Fishing nearby, Gary Hough has spotted a few.

“We saw some earlier, they have been up and down quite a bite,” said Hough.

To help boaters spot a manatee, FWC recommends wearing polarized glasses and looking for the gentle creatures’ footprint.

“When they’re swimming underwater, their big tails push up a plume of water and it leaves a circular impression on top of the water,” said Spoede.

Most boaters traveling on the waters know to go slow.

“We don’t want to run into them, we like watching them and don’t want to injure them in any way, shape or form,” said Kay Bedolli.

But there are others who don’t heed the warning.

“I’ve seen a couple [manatees] that they brought in that had been hit,” said Hough.

FWC says 80 manatees have died this year, 59 of those were in Lee County.

“You have a very small percentage of repeat offenders that just don’t care,” said Spoede, “and those are the people we normally address with citations.”

Speeding tickets in manatee zones start at $50.

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