Aug 30, 2008

Mating manatees cause stir in river

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had this kind of sightings for our dugongs?

Carl Mario Nudi Bradenton Herald 30 Aug 08;

Manatees doing what comes naturally caused a stir early Thursday evening as a herd of the lumbering marine mammals were seen mating near the Green Bridge.

The wild splashing of a group of five to 10 large males trying to get beneath a single reluctant female in the shallow waters of the river bank can be disconcerting to an untrained observer.

From late spring to early fall, the female manatee is in her peak reproductive period, and that's when large number of male - or bull - manatees flock to the female for a sort of free-for-all spectacle.
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"We sometimes get calls because people think the animals are stranded," said Andy Garrett, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "And it sometimes happens as the tide goes out."

That was what happened at about 6 p.m. Thursday near the Riverside Drive boat ramp at Regatta Point.

Palmetto Police Department officers were called to help direct traffic.

Garrett said the tide went out and the animals were in shallower water than usual, but a biologist was on hand to keep them wet for about two hours until the tide came in again.

Although the manatees in the Manatee River were not in immediate danger, Garret said there are times when manatees do get stranded on sand bars and in the shallows of rivers and bays.

"People should call our marine wildlife alert line when they see any manatee in trouble," he said.

The biologist also said people should not get in the way of love and go into the water when a male herd is trying to mate with a female.

Male manatees can reach 1,000 pounds in weight, while the female can grow to more than 1,500.

"The males get focused and it could be dangerous," Garrett said. "You could get trapped underwater with one of those heavy animals on top of you."

He also said humans thinking they are helping could disrupt the mating process. With the low reproduction rate of manatees, that would not be beneficial for the species.

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