About Manatees (West Indian Species)

What do they look like?

Image What do they look like?

The West Indian species of manatee are generally grey or grayish-brown colored.  The skin on their head and face is wrinkled.  They have two small eyes and there are whiskers on their snout.  Their upper lip is large and flexible, which helps them to gather and eat food.  They have two flippers; one on each side of their body.  Their enormous bodies taper into a flat, paddle-shaped tail.  The flippers and strong flat tail help them to swim and glide through the water currents.



What do they eat?

Image What do they eat?

Manatees are herbivores and tend to eat a wide variety of plants and algae.  Research shows manatees dine on as many as 60 plant species, especially sea grasses.  An adult manatee can eat about 10% of its body weight each day. 



What is their habitat?

Image What is their habitat?

Approximately 3,000 West Indian Species of manatees live in the coastal waters and rivers in Florida. Manatees are the official state marine mammal of Florida.   They are slow moving creatures whose numbers have declined over the last 100 years.  West Indian manatees can be seen throughout the Caribbean basin and within the southeastern United States.  Florida manatee sightings are more likely in the wintertime.  There are occasional summertime sightings in other southern states, such as Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. 



Are manatees an endangered species?

Image Are manatees an endangered species?

Manatees are an endangered species, and are protected by laws to keep them from becoming extinct.  Even though they are protected, they still face threats.  These gentle creatures are frequently hurt when they are accidentally hit by the propellers on fast moving boats and sometimes get tangled up in fishing nets.  Many times the injuries cause infection causing the death of the Manatee.



Where can I see a manatee?

Image Where can I see a manatee?

Manatees are generally sighted in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals and coastal areas, especially where sea grass beds or freshwater vegetation are plentiful.  During the daytime hours, manatees can usually be seen close to the water’s surface.  They actually sleep within the top 3 to 10 feet of the surface.  Sometimes they will swim down to 30 feet.  When feeding, mostly at night, the manatee walks along the bottom using its flippers to move along.