Watch 300 Manatees Shut Down a Wildlife Park

A flash mob of sea cows takes refuge in a Florida hot spring.
Feb 3, 2015·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

It must have been a chilly Monday morning for manatees navigating Florida’s waterways.

Cold enough for nearly 300 of the endangered marine mammals to congregate at Three Sisters Springs, a hot spot—literally—for manatees looking to warm up.

(Photo: National Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials counted 293 sea cows on Monday afternoon. With so many manatees in such a small space, park rangers closed one of the springs on Florida’s west coast to swimmers, snorkelers, and kayaks to avoid contact between people and the gentle giants.

To maintain their body temperature, manatees search out freshwater springs and power plant outflows to make it through the winter months, when cold fronts make the ocean chilly.

But when they’re in such shallow water, the slow-moving animals often end up on the wrong side of a powerboat—and they often have the propeller scars to prove it.

To reduce such incidents, which are the leading cause of manatee deaths, Florida Wildlife officials close some waterways during the months the animals migrate. It’s one of many conservation efforts that have helped revive the species in recent years; the manatee population has increased from a low of about 1,800 in the early 1990s to around 5,000 today.