As the temperature in Southwest Florida drops, visitors head to Lee County’s Manatee Park in hopes of running into sea cows.
The mammals migrate toward warm waters during the cool months, which makes the refuge of Manatee Park a good herding spot.
Twelve-year-old David Witmer was lucky enough to find a few at the park on Wednesday morning.
“Probably about five just popped out a little bit,” David said.
The search for the gentle giants in warm waters comes during a record-breaking year for manatee deaths.
Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani calls it a “double jeopardy” situation.
“It’s not only the cold that can stress them out a lot, but a lot of them are actually starving because of seagrass has declined so much,” Cassani said.
To help manatees, the state and its federal partners are exploring short-term solutions to the die-off, while working to restore the ecosystem.
“It’s just not going to get better overnight. It’s going to take a while and really it’s concerning to an ecologist to see this kind of thing happening and thinking about how quickly we can reverse the situation,” Cassani said.
If you see a sick, injured, dead or tagged manatee, you are asked to call the FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922)