Tipping the scales at up to 1800 pounds, the West Indian Manatee is quite a sight to see. These aquatic mammals are closely related to the elephant and are found in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and eastern South America. In the winter months manatees congregate in the warm coastal waters of Florida, and are often seen in the canals of Cape Coral. Rarely are they found in waters colder than 60 degrees F.
Manatee’s are herbivores (plant eating), spending most of their time eating bottom vegetation from the shallow waters where they live. Eating a vegetarian diet must have some benefits, as these gentle giants can live up to 60 years and the oldest Manatee living in captivity was born in 1948.
They have few predators, but attacks by sharks, alligators and crocodiles have been recorded. It has been estimated that the Manatee has been in existence for over 60 million years, but are at great threat for extinction due to human activity, especially propeller strikes by boats, swallowing fishing line and loss of habitat and food. At this time the Florida manatee is considered to be one of the most endangered of all mammals in the United States*.
One of the easiest places to see the Manatee in Cape Coral is at Sirenia Vista Park in NW Cape Coral. Entering the park you will see a canal on the left (East) side of the park. Several manatees spend the winter months here. The manatee propels itself through the water with its fluke; as it does it creates a series of ripples which look like footprints. The smallest ones are the closest to the animal, so you can “follow the footprints” to locate a manatee. Another way to locate them is to look for air bubbles. Manatees are herbivores; they eat a great deal of roughage and as a result often have gas. The gas bubbles help locate them. Mud swirls also indicate that a manatee has been in the area, and very often you can see the snout of the manatee sticking out of the water as it takes in a breath of fresh air.