300 Manatees Throw Massive Party In Wildlife Refuge, Literally Shut The Place Down
When a herd of 300 manatees comes swimming into your spring, there's not much to do but sit back and watch them float by.
At the Crystal Rivers National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River, Florida, staff and volunteers found out just how many West Indian manatees could cram themselves into a spring this week. The park was forced to close down on Monday when a whopping 300 of the mammoth animals flooded in. For context, the normal manatee population in the area is 65.
Usually, the springs are visited by kayakers and swimmers, but this week the 1,200-pound manatees reign supreme. Also known as sea cows, manatees seek shallow pools when temperatures drop. They've even been spotted congregating around nuclear power plants, which emit warm water.
These manatees decided to cozy up in the warm lagoon:
There's no word yet on when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reopen the springs.
While these manatees are lolling around in their warm bath, life isn't always so easy for the species. The main cause of death for manatees is conflict with humans, particularly habitat destruction and ship strikes. As slow-moving mammals, they often don't move quickly enough to avoid speeding boats, and are hit by propellers. Scientists can even identify them individually by the scar patterns on their backs. Speed limits and educational materials have been encouraged as ways to help reduce boat collisions.
Conservationists also worry that the constant presence of tourists and swimmers can put stress on the animals - which is why the closure is surely a welcome break.
See this page for more information on how to save Florida's iconic sea cows.