When Florida's weather cools, manatees seek TECO power plant's warm waters

When the cold weather hits the Sunshine State, Floridians know they will find manatees huddling together over at TECO's Manatee Viewing Center.

Wednesday morning was no different, which signaled the coldest morning since mid-January. Over at the power plant, numerous sea cows were spotted by SkyFOX.

RELATED: Bundle up: Coldest temperatures of the season arrive in Tampa Bay area

Manatees, like most Florida residents, cannot tolerate temperatures below 68 degrees for long periods of time. When the temperatures begin to cool in November -- which is Manatee Awareness Month -- their instincts kick in, and thousands of the gentle giants migrate to warmer waters. This includes the state's springs or the TECO plant's discharge canal.

Back in 1975, the manatee was designated as Florida's official marine mammal. In 2017, they were reclassified from endangered to a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. However, conservation efforts continue to this day.

Unfortunately, the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach remains closed to visitors due to the pandemic. It's tentatively set to reopen Jan. 6. Typically, it opens in November.

READ: Manatee Viewing Center to stay closed until 2021

Manatees have been gathering at the plant since the early 1970s. It has since become a designated manatee sanctuary.

Learn more about the Manatee Viewing Center by heading to TECO's website.

FWC offered boaters the following tips to help keep manatees safe:

  • Observe manatees from a distance to limit disturbance. Disturbing manatees at their warm-water sites may cause them to leave these areas during the winter.
  • Follow posted manatee protection zones.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to spot them moving, grazing and resting in the water.
  • Keep a lookout for the circular “footprints” or ripples they leave on the surface of the water.
  • Follow manatee viewing guidelines and always observe manatees from a respectful distance.
  • Don’t feed or water manatees. Doing so is illegal and can put manatees at risk.
  • Report injured, entangled, orphaned or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC on your cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
  • Purchase a manatee decal or license plate and let your friends know how you’re helping support the FWC’s manatee conservation efforts.
  • Contribute to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida’s Marine Mammal Fund by visiting WildlifeFlorida.org and clicking on “Support Us,” “Funding Priorities” and “Marine Mammal Fund.”

LINK: For more information, visit FWC's website.