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Manatees concentrated in Lee, Collier counties; area boaters cautioned

For immediate release: January 5, 2012
Lee County contact: Gary Morse, 863-227-3830
Collier County contact: Carli Segelson, 772-215-9459

Manatees concentrated in Lee, Collier counties; area boaters cautioned

Recent cold fronts have very high numbers of manatees concentrated in warm-water refuges in the Orange River, Faka Union Canal and in other inshore areas of Lee and Collier counties.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) cautions boaters in these counties to be on the lookout for manatees in warm-water refuges, and as temperatures moderate, in main channels. Boaters should slow down and strictly obey posted speed restrictions in manatee protection zones.

“Once the cold weather passes and water temperatures begin to increase, large numbers of these mammals will move out of warm-water refuges and head toward feeding areas,” said Capt. Denis Grealish, FWC law enforcement supervisor for Lee and Charlotte counties. “That’s when the greatest danger from boat strikes occurs. This pattern will repeat itself as winter cold fronts come and go.”

In the Orange River area, manatees will move into the Caloosahatchee River and, from there, into feeding areas in Matlacha Pass and San Carlos Bay and other inshore waters. Manatees will also disperse to feeding areas in Collier County, especially from the area around Faka Union Canal.

“To avoid striking manatees, vessel operators should wear polarized sunglasses to help them spot the creatures in the water, and watch for the large, telltale circular slicks on the surface of the water (manatee footprints) that indicate the presence of manatees,” said Grealish.

All member agencies of the Lee County Marine Law Enforcement Task Force and law enforcement agencies of the Collier Marine Alliance will be increasing patrols and strictly enforcing manatee-protection zone speed limits to aid the animals during this period when they are most vulnerable to vessel strikes.

To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).