The Manatees of Citrus County

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Record number of Manatees are swimming into Citrus county, Florida this winter. Three Sisters Springs and Homosassa Springs are the usual gathering places in Citrus county, but lately the water mammals have been gathering in King’s Bay, thanks in part to several cold fronts. Government has measures to protect Manatees, including speed zones, harassment laws, and the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. In winter, Manatees can hide in the many sanctuaries around the bay, where boats are not allowed.

The recent census of 443 Manatees is a new record for Citrus county, and good news for tour operators, who say conservation efforts need to continue. But sadly, death and rescues are up to 17 this year, compared to twelve last year. Beginning in December and running through February of 2009, Save The Manatee Club will once again offer “do not disturb” kayak tours, which offer Manatee viewing without disturbing their natural behavior. These are offered in Crystal River. This is the third year of the kayak tours, which are very popular.

Some Manatee facts. The name Manatee is derived from the word Manati, with an accent at the last letter. This comes from the Taino, native pre Columbus people of the Caribbean. This is also how it is spelled in spanish. The Manatee is a distant relative of the elephant. A large gray aquatic mammal with bodies that taper to a large paddle tail. Their forelimbs, or flippers, have three or four nails. Adults grow up to ten feet, and can weigh up to twelve hundred pounds. They are found in shallow rivers, canals, estuaries and bays on coastal areas. They roam throughout the southeast in summer and gather in Florida during the winter. They have no natural enemies and can live sixty years or more.They are slow reproducers, with females maturing at about five and males at about nine years old. Pregnancy lasts about a year, with a calf born every two to five years. They stay dependent on mama for about two years. They are officially listed as endangered.

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