Visitors to Manatee Park in Lee County got a special treat on Wednesday as dozens of manatees showed up to enjoy the area’s warmer waters.
The park is a warm water refuge for sea cows during cold spells. The water is warmer because of a nearby water plant.
Researchers also took advantage of the mammals’ visits to collect data. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Lab staff were on hand to conduct genetic sampling by taking skin tissue samples.
That helps researchers track their survival, migration and population rates.
Don Fisher, a part-time Fort Myers resident, said it’s great not to be in Chicago where it’s cold this time of year.
Fisher was one of the many visitors to Manatee Park on Wednesday.
“Being from the north, we don’t see that type of thing, but they’re just so gentle and large, and it’s just a cool experience,” Fisher said.
Fisher said he saw between 20 and 25 manatees up and down the canal.
“They’re even in the small river down at the end of the park,” he said.
The eye-catching morning was on the heels of a record-breaking year for manatee deaths last year, when more than 1,000 manatee deaths were reported due to vegetation dieout.
“Florida’s very lucky to have such a wonderful mammal and, and people to be able to see them very easily,” Fisher said.
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