Hundreds of Manatees Close Down Florida Wildlife Refuge

   02.04.15

More than 300 manatees crowded into Three Sisters Springs north of Tampa, Florida yesterday, causing wildlife officials to temporarily close the waterway. According to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the closure will remain in place depending on tides and the manatee count, which is believed to be an all-time record for the waterway. In fact, Citrus County is now host to an unusually large population of manatees, with biologists counting a record 797 as of last Friday.

This might not be good news for Three Sisters Springs, which is only prepared to accommodate a handful of the new guests now lounging in the area.

“We have a record number this year,” Laura Ruettiman, an education guide at the springs, told WPTV. “We have 150 more manatees here than have ever been recorded in the past.”

It is believed that colder temperatures have pushed the manatees—or sea cows, as they are often called—into the refuge.The 60-acre Three Sisters Springs is part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Kings Bay, the only refuge of its kind created specifically for the protection of the endangered Florida Manatee. Every year, an average of 600 manatees come to the refuge during winter to avoid chilly water temperatures. As their relaxed demeanor might suggest, manatees have a low metabolic rate and are vulnerable to conditions such as “cold stress syndrome” and can die from prolonged exposure. The springs offer a warm sanctuary for rotund mammals, and a learning experience for visitors. Tours at Three Sisters Springs even involve an opportunity to swim with¬†these gentle sea cows.

You can see an example of that below:

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