While sharks can be scary, whales sometimes overwhelming and dolphins extra-smart, manatees fall into their own category of lovably funny-looking, docile and silly sea mammals. Don’t let their looks fool you, though -- manatees are also shockingly intelligent creatures!
These gentle giants are often spotted in coastal or river areas where there’s lots of seagrass or vegetation to enjoy. They migrate regularly depending upon the weather. Manatees that live in North America are commonly found in Florida during the winter, but can spend the summer all the way up the Atlantic coast to Massachusetts and in the west out toward Texas. One of the best places to see manatees is at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Florida. The Big Bend Power Station in Tampa, Florida also has a viewing platform. Since manatees come so close to land it’s not unusual for bystanders get near enough to snap a picture or two. If you ever see one that appears to be injured, dead or bothered by humans, however, take steps to report the situation immediately to officials or at savethemanatee.org.
If you have manatee fever, but don’t live in an area they frequent, don’t worry! You can “adopt” a manatee to support their care and conservation efforts. Many of these manatees have been tracked and monitored for decades, and are particularly popular with visitors to the state parks they frequent.
Want to check your knowledge of these friendly, intriguing sea creatures? Take this quiz to find out how much you truly know about manatees!