Monday, January 11, 2010

Manatees crowd springs for warmth

There are 100 and counting just in Three Sisters Springs alone, and wildlife authorities are urging spectators to stay away from the mammals. They're worried human contact may scare them back into cold waters.Michael Lusk, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge manager, was shocked by the large numbers of manatees in the spring."What you're seeing here is a true phenomenon. Our biologist who has been here for over 20 years says that she's never seen so many manatees in this area," Lusk said.The springs are nature's version of a spa for the manatees, a place where they go to stay warm.The spring has a constant water temperature of 72 degrees year-round, and manatees will typically get sick once the water temperature drops below 68 degrees.Lusk believes most manatee tour groups and residents are complying with requests to stay out of the springs, although we spotted one snorkeler who seemed to be keeping a safe distance.But that may be even too close, some manatee advocates say. Tracy Colson, an advocate who volunteers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge explains why."The swimmers' interaction with them is an issue with me, because there's a lot of harassment that goes on and that prevents them from resting and using the springs to keep warm," she said.Some nearby manatee tour operators say they're feeling the crunch of cancellations -- not because of the recent warning, but because the cold weather is keeping people away.At Manatee Tour and Dive, owner Charles Slider hopes to keep booking trips."I'd hate to see them close it completely, and it's better if everybody understands and cooperates with Fish and Wildlife to protect the animals," he said.U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers say they're diligently patrolling, on the lookout for offenders: swimmers and boaters who get too close. They're encouraging everyone to look and not touch these creatures who inspire so much awe and wonder. Fox News

No comments: