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December 21, 2021

Tips & Tricks for Manatee Viewing in Clay County, Florida

Manatees, also known as sea cows for their grazing habits, can often be tough to find in their natural habitats. Often found in salt, brackish and fresh water, manatees are slow-moving mammals that spend their days eating and sleeping. 

Where to Look for Manatees

Manatees cannot tolerate cold water temperatures for extended periods of time. They look for warmer waters when the water temperatures drop below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Between November and March, manatees tend to migrate toward natural springs and waters near power plant discharge canals – both known to be places with warm water temperatures.

In Clay County, areas known for manatee sightings include the vegetation along Black Creek, Doctors Lake near private docks, Governor’s Creek in Green Cove Springs and the mighty St. Johns River.

Manatee Viewing in Clay County

Manatees, come to the water’s surface to breath every two to four minutes, unless resting. Known to be slow moving animals, manatees typically congregate around the water’s edge where vegetation is easy to access. The waters near a manatee usually make a swirl on the water’s surface when the animal’s back, snout or tail break the surface. This swirl pattern is known as a “manatee footprint’.

Things to Know About Viewing Manatees

Per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, here are some things to remember when viewing manatees:

  • NEVER touch a manatee. Look, but never touch.
  • Do NOT feed manatees. If they become accustomed to people, they may lose their fear of boats and humans, making them more susceptible to harm.
  • NEVER chase or scare a manatee if you are in a boat or nearby on the shores.
  • NEVER swim with a manatee.
  • Always give manatees space to move. NEVER attempt to separate a manatee from its group.

Most importantly, please know that the manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which makes it illegal to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal. The manatee is also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, which states: “It is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee.”

How to Help a Distressed Manatee

If you see a distressed manatee during your time in Clay County, contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC. On a mobile phone, dial #FWC or *FWC. 

Have you ever seen a manatee in Clay County? 

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