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Top 6 Dangers That Manatees in Florida Face | BeCause Tees

Top 6 Dangers That Manatees in Florida Face

Florida is popular for its sunshine, warm weather, theme parks, and beautiful beaches. However, a lesser-known treasure of the state is its large population of manatees. Nicknamed "sea cows," manatees in Florida are gentle giants who move slowly and feed on aquatic plants. Although they have no natural enemies, manatees have a declining population and are considered to be a vulnerable species.

The Life of Manatees in Florida

Manatees are large, gray mammals that live in warm waters along the coast and waterways of Florida. On average, an adult manatee gets up to 10 feet long and can weigh as much as 1200 pounds. They prefer areas with shallow water where they can find seagrass and other freshwater vegetation to feed on. And although they live in Florida for most of the year, during the summer, they often migrate to other states such as Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

While many manatees die of natural causes such as pneumonia, cold-stress or some disease, a large number of deaths are human-related, which means humans can help save them. Faced with possible extinction, manatees are protected by laws that the United States and Florida passed in the 1970s. These laws made it illegal for people to capture, harass or kill manatees. They also kept these mammals from going extinct.

6 Reasons Why Manatees in Florida Are Vulnerable

Since manatees are laid-back, non-confrontational animals, they appear to have an easygoing life. But even with laws to protect them, there are other factors currently threatening the survival of these creatures. To better understand what’s going on, here are six reasons why the manatees in Florida are vulnerable.

1. Boat Collisions

Boats can be extremely dangerous for manatees. Since they move slowly and spend most of their time in shallow waters, it can be difficult for them to get out of the way of a boat that’s speeding by. Manatees in Florida only swim around three to five mph. That speed makes them no match for a boat going over 15 or 20 mph. Unfortunately, watercraft collisions are one of the leading causes of injury and death among them.

2. Climate Change

The biggest threat for these sea cows is the loss of a warm water habitat due to climate change. As water temperatures continue to fluctuate between unusual highs and lows, it’s having a deadly effect on many of them. Manatees in Florida don’t have much body fat and can’t survive in water temperatures lower than 68 degrees Fahrenheit for too long. Signs that they've been in cooler water for an extended period can be seen on their bodies since cold-stressed manatees often have white patches where their skin has fallen off. They also tend to be weak due to malnutrition.

3. Discarded Trash and Fishing Gear

As rivers, lakes and oceans continue to get polluted, many animals are paying the price. Discarded trash, plastic bags and fishing gear are a constant hazard to their health and life. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for manatees in Florida to get fishing hooks caught in their lips, throats or stomachs as they eat sea grass. This occurrence can hurt them and also lead to a deadly infection.

Since manatees use their flippers to grab onto sea grass as they eat, it's easy for them to get entangled in some fishing line that may be caught on the grass. In severe cases, the line can wrap around a flipper so tight that the manatee needs to be rescued, and its flipper has to be removed. 

4. Harassment From Humans

An annoying threat to manatees that is completely avoidable is harassment from humans. While plenty of people respect manatees in Florida and keep their distance, some try to chase, touch or pet them. Manatees are naturally afraid of people. However, constant human interaction causes them to change their behavior and become too friendly. While taming manatees may sound great, it’s not good for them and could cause them to approach someone who intends to do them harm.

5. Harmful Algal Blooms

Another effect of climate change and higher surface-water temperatures is the increase of harmful algal blooms. A type of bloom that keeps growing in Florida is commonly called "red tides" because it makes the water turn red. These harmful blooms form when algae grow out of control while also producing toxins harmful to birds, fish, marine mammals and people. When too many of these toxins are inhaled by manatees, these contaminants can harm or even kill them. Harmful algal blooms also block out sunlight, which sea grass and other vegetation desperately need to grow.

6. Loss of Habitat

As humans continue to develop properties along waterways where manatees in Florida live, these sea cows' natural habitats are being destroyed. And when run-off from sewage, fertilizer and manure pollutes the water, it contributes to the growth of algal blooms. Without considering the impact that these things are having on manatees, their much-needed habitats will continue to be lost.

While there are many reasons that manatees are vulnerable with decreasing populations, there is a lot that can be done to help save them. With a little vigilance and care on everyone's part, manatees have the chance to be around for many years to come.

How You Can Help the Manatees in Florida

Manatees in Florida are amazing creatures that need your help to survive. You can do your part to help reduce the dangers they face each day by doing one or more of the following:

  • Tell others what you’ve learned about manatees.
  • Volunteer with manatee organizations that need your help.
  • Donate to causes that work with manatees and help to save them.

At BeCause Tees, we care about humanitarian and environmental causes, just like you, which is why we donate to environmental nonprofits for each purchase made, plus fund the planting of trees. Shop our Manatee Collection today and display your passion and support for these fantastic creatures.


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