August 28, 2016
Mother Nature at work: It's manatee mating season
By Andrea Stetson, Special to Coastal Life
The manatees flopped around on the sandbar near Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, flailing their flukes and flippers and churning up the water.
Crowds formed, worried about these gentle giants might be stranded on the sand.
But the manatees weren’t stuck; they were just doing what Mother Nature intended.
This is mating season for manatees and it is not that uncommon for people to see them on local beaches, splashing around each other with their big blubbery bodies.
“What happens when you see the manatees on the beach is that the female leads them there because she needs a break,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation for Save the Manatee Club. “This is what the female does when she needs a time out.”
A female can be in heat for up to three weeks, and Tripp said the males are relentless in their pursuit. So when she gets too tired, she comes ashore for a break. But the males follow. They circle her in the water and flop onto the beach still trying to mate.
“Sometimes they are very subdued, but sometimes there is a frenzy of activity,” Tripp said.
She said the female is resting when she is on the beach so it is very important that people don’t try to push the manatees back in the water.
“People don’t understand that. When they see dolphins or whales on the beach it means they need help,” Tripp said. “This is not the same.”
The state counted a record 6,250 manatees in Florida waters this year.
Give them room
Bob Wasno, coordinator of the Vester Marine and Environmental science field station for Florida Gulf Coast University, agrees.
“I would offer caution to anyone witnessing this to give them room,” Wasno said. “You can get wiped out by those tails. Stand back observe, take photographs. But in no way should they interfere.”
Wasno said the female is not being harmed, even though the scene sometimes looks quite rough.
“While it does look violent in a sense, it’s not really,” Wasno said. “The male is trying to position itself for better access.”
Those that get to witness it get the opportunity to see a special part of nature.
“Love is in the air,” Wasno said. “It’s Mother Nature on display.”
Danielle Power and her daughter, Allison Power, 12, of Coral Springs, got to witness the mating manatees this past week at the Delnor-Wiggins park.
“We’ve seen manatees before but never like this,” Danielle Power said. “There are a couple of them circling around on the outside. I have never seen them like this before.”
"It’s awesome,” Allison added. “It’s just so cool.”
When a female manatee is in estrus a group of a dozen or more males will form a mating herd and pursue her.
Manatees can breed for up to three weeks and mate with more than one male.
*Source: Save the Manatee Club
TO REPORT MANATEE ACTIVITY
Call the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922