Florida beach goers get close to pod of manatees

Experts say swimmers should give manatees a wide berth.

SIESTA KEY, Fla. -- A typical afternoon swim up the coast for these manatees turned into a rare experience for beach goers on Siesta Key.

But did they get too close?

“The crowd stayed back, viewed them and stayed out of their way so they could move on. All in all, it's pretty good viewing from what I can tell,” said Ron Mezich with FWC’s Manatee Management Program .

He said it’s not unusual for manatees to get this close to shore.

“I did notice a fair number of animals traveling together, so maybe it's the beginning of a mating herd. Interesting.”

Wildlife will let you know when you’re too close. 

“When animals react to you, you’re too close because the disturbance may be considered harassing the animal. We tell people to stand back and enjoy the view, and try not pursue animals or it could become a form of harassment,” Mezich said.

Manatees are a threatened and endangered species, and it’s illegal to touch or feed them for their safety, said Mezich.

“Feeding or watering manatees be a form of harassment. They don’t need our water or food. It can habituate them to boats and people, and that puts them in harm’s way,” said Mezich.

Keep a distance---it’s for your safety, too.

“Typically, they are docile and don’t tend to be aggressive, but they are very large animals, over 1,000 pounds. If spooked, they can move fast. Their flukes and tails are very strong; if it hits a leg or arm, bones can be easily broken.”

But if you ever get a chance to see a group of manatees off the beach, Mezich said, “It’s always a good day when you see pod of manatee.”

FWC said if you see a stranded animal, don’t touch it. Contact a local animal rescue group for help.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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