Broward County’s Natural Resources Planning and Management Division (NRPMD) cautions boaters to be on the lookout for greater numbers of manatees moving into the County’s waterways. The 2012 manatee season (November 15, 2012 -March 31, 2013) has started with a greater number of manatees in the County than ever recorded.
NRPMD staff counted 477 manatees during the first week of December, more than twice the historical average for this time of year. “While the number dropped to 136 due to recent warm weather, the current cold front should cause the number to jump back up well into the hundreds. Boaters should slow down and strictly obey posted speed restrictions in manatee-protection zones,” said Pat Quinn, Marine Resources with Broward County NRPMD.
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The majority of the manatees will be traveling south in the Intracoastal Waterway to the warm-water refuges of the Lauderdale Power Plant cooling lakes and Port Everglades’ Power Plant cooling canal. Other than the Intracoastal, other waterways expected to have high numbers of manatees include the New River, South Fork of New River, Dania Cutoff Canal and surrounding waters of Port Everglades.
During warmer periods, the manatees will move back into the Intracoastal Waterway and surrounding canals to forage, thus increasing the chance of manatee/boater interaction. Statewide, 78 manatees have been killed by boats in 2012 with three of those deaths occurring in Broward County.
Broward County urges boaters to take special care to avoid coming close to these marine mammals, that may be stressed because of the cold snap. To avoid striking manatees, vessel operators should wear polarized sunglasses to help them spot the creatures in the water and watch for the large telltale circular slicks on the surface of the water (manatee “footprints”) that indicate the presence of manatees.
To report an injured or dead manatee, call the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).