When it comes to Florida wildlife, you hear a lot about manatees. But what exactly are they? In a nutshell, manatees are aquatic mammals found in the warm coastal waters of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and eastern South America. Resembling elephants, or “sea cows,” manatees weigh up to a staggering 1,800 pounds! They are often seen in the canals of Cape Coral in the winter months, especially at Sirenia Vista Park. The area near Matlacha is a manatee favorite.
Manatees are largely spotted in Cape Coral at Sirenia Vista Park in NW Cape Coral. Sirenia Vista Park is located on the corner of Ceitus Parkway and Old Burnt Store Road, an 8-acre environmental park. Upon entering the park, manatees can be seen in the canal on the east side of the park. You will see ripples in the water or air bubbles. Sometimes you can see the snout of the manatee sticking out of the water as it takes a breath of air. To see a manatee, experts agree to look for circular patterns on the water’s surface, or “manatee footprints.”
The Florida manatee has the label of being one of the most endangered mammals in the United States today. Manatees like to congregate in the warm waters of Florida, and are hardly ever found in waters cooler than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the water gets cooler, the manatees migrate closer to the Fort Myers Power Plant—an area that is warm, although lacks food. Manatees are plant-eaters (herbivores) and eat bottom vegetation from the shallow waters where they live. They can live up to 60 years! While they have few predators, manatees have suffered attacks by sharks, alligators and crocodiles. While they have existed for 60 million years, they are a threat for extinction as a result of human activity, such as propeller hits by boats, swallowing fishing lines and loss of habitat and food.