West Indian Manatee
The West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) is a large, gray aquatic mammal that can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds. Due to dwindling populations in the 1970s, the manatee became a federally listed endangered species and is still protected both federally and at the state level.
Manatees are found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas especially where concentrations of freshwater vegetation are found. Manatees are a migratory species and during the winter are concentrated in Florida. During the summer months, they can travel as far west as Texas and north as Massachusetts. Manatees are slow-moving creatures and most of their time is spent eating vegetation, resting, and traveling.
They have no natural enemies and have been known to live as long as 60 years. A high number of manatee fatalities are from human-related causes, especially collisions with watercraft. They are also prone to ingesting fishing debris and other litter. However, the most serious threat facing the manatee today is loss of habitat. It is estimated that only 3,800 manatees exist in the United States today.
See the St. Johns County Manatee Protection Plan