November is the month for cozy sweaters and cold weather. Sadly, manatees don’t have the luxury of going out and buying warmer clothes to prepare for winter weather. Beginning in November, many manatees make their way from the cooling Mid-Atlantic coast to the warm waters around Florida. That is why November has the honor of being Manatee Awareness Month!
This month got off to a great start with Polar Bear Week, we just didn’t think November could get any better — but it did — with Manatee Awareness Month! To celebrate our favorite sea cow, here are a few reasons why we love these gentle, easy going marine mammals.
1. Manatees are amazing mothers.
Manatees are pregnant with their young for about 12 months (and we thought nine months was a long time). For up to two years after birth, manatee calves are completely dependent on their mothers for food and protection. Although manatees only give birth every 2 to 5 years, sea cow mothers are excellent at the job. Raising their young is quite the time commitment, making manatees some of the most dedicated mothers out there.
2. Manatees are mermaids.
During Christopher Columbus’s first trip to the Americas, his company recorded a sighting of three mermaids in the waters surrounding the island of Haiti. He reported seeing these mermaids rise from the sea near his route. Later it was discovered that these mythical mermaids were most likely manatees. Manatees have vertebrae in their neck allowing them to turn their heads similar to humans, and can raise themselves out of the water by performing “tail stands” in shallow areas. Sea cows also have finger-like bones on their front limbs which can resemble arms and hands. With these characteristics, we can see why it would be easy to confuse manatees and mermaids. Mermaids are pretty cool, but manatees are just as magical.
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3. Manatees know how to relax.
These calming sea cows live life at a slower pace. Manatees generally swim at a pace of about three to five miles per hour. When they aren’t feeding or traveling, manatees will spend the majority of their time resting. Unlike most humans, they have time to fit in a few small naps throughout the day and night. While resting, manatees can be fully submerged without taking a breath for up to 20 minutes! These are the kind of animals we would want to spend a vacation with, taking it slow and relaxing 24/7.
4. Manatees have exceptional senses.
Manatees have relatively small eyes in relation to their large body. What their eyes lack in size, they make up for in utility. Manatees have a retractable membrane to protect their eyes while also allowing them to see very well. Although these gentle giants have no visible, outward ear structures, they have large inner ear bones that promote strong hearing.
5. Manatees hate the cold.
The only thing manatees hate more than a fast-paced lifestyle is the cold winter weather. Manatees head for shallow, warmer water in the colder months beginning in November. Due to their low metabolic rates and low body fat, they are unable to survive in water colder than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite their large size, manatees have very minimal body fat making them extra sensitive to cooling temperatures in the winter months.
Manatees are wondrous and gentle creatures that are, sadly, endangered. Because they are unable to survive in the cold, manatees must make the difficult journey towards warmer water each year. Boat strikes are one of the biggest threats to migrating manatees. November is the month to raise awareness about the declining manatee population and discover what you can do to help.
To help the sea cows, when boating, always obey posted speed zones and go slowly in shallow waters where manatees tend to rest, feed and migrate to. Watch for manatee signs and never throw trash, debris or fishing line overboard.
You can also help on land by picking up trash that could end up in the manatees’ habitats. Spending a few extra minutes at the end of your beach visit to clean up your surroundings can benefit manatees for a lifetime. The most important way you can help manatees is to always be respectful. If you are lucky enough to see a manatee in the wild, never disturb them. Admiring from afar is safest for you and the manatees.
Interested in seeing more awesome manatee photos and learning more about our favorite sea cows? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. We will be sharing fun facts all month long. Happy Manatee Awareness Month!