Lovable creatures, aren’t they?

I was amused to read of the friendliness of manatees in Florida’s warm water springs, particularly their fondness for petting. The Daily Mail reports:

For the unaware snorkeller, coming face to face with one of these enormous underwater mammals might cause a bit of panic.

But these rotund creatures want nothing more than their bellies scratched as they float around the warmer waters near Crystal River, Florida.

Several freshwater springs attract the gentle manatees when their usual ocean habitat becomes too cold in the winter.

Underwater photographer Alex Mustard travelled to the west coast of Florida to capture the animals as they congregate together to escape the cold.

He said: ‘Manatees live life at a slow pace, so when you swim with them you are forced to chill down to their speed.

‘They’re just floating about in a sort of zen state. Then, when they come up to you and want you to scratch them, it is so exciting – you get a real connection.’

The 36-year-old said photographing manatees was an easy task because of their laid-back nature.

He said: ‘Manatees are big and, if you don’t stress them, very friendly, so they are easy to get close to the camera.

‘If you give one a good scratch, it will remember and 30 minutes later you will feel a nudge in your side – and there is the same individual wanting another tickle!

‘The babies are the most playful, and I think the adults are happy to have snorkellers entertain their energetic youngsters while they get some sleep.’

There’s more at the link, including more photographs. Interesting reading.

I’ve never seen a manatee, but it’s on my ‘bucket list’. I’ve seen a dugong, which I understand is a related animal. Fascinating creatures . . . I’d love to know how they evolved, and what particular ecological niche they came to occupy. To me, creatures like the manatee and dugong (not to mention the platypus, which some regard as proof positive that the Creator has a sense of humor!) exemplify Shakespeare’s words in Hamlet:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.



  1. My mother lived in the Florida keys (Marathon) for 13-years.

    On my many visits I became acquainted with and really fond of the Manatees.

    They are docil, friendly but unfortunally, too trusting of humans.

    They're the teddy bears of the sea.

  2. When we were kids my brother and I would swim with the manatees in the canal across from my parents' home. Despite their size, which is surprisingly large, they are the most gentle, inquisitive critters you'd ever want to encounter. We'd feed them lettuce and pet them, and they really seemed to enjoy the interaction. Today I'm not sure if you can pet them without some kind of permit (the tree-huggers now consider what we used to do to be "harassment") but I recommend it if you ever have the chance.

  3. I like Manatees as well. One wandered near Houston back in the 90's. Tasted like a cross between a Ridley sea turtle and a Spotted Owl. Kind of a "chicken of the sea"!

    Old joke. Sorry, couldn't resist.

    Anon Y. Mous

  4. When we took our youngest up to the Columbus Zoo, he stopped and watched the manatees for almost half an hour. If you've ever seen a 3 year old sit still at a zoo, it's a once in a lifetime experience. They were slowly making rounds in the large tank they were in and seemed to enjoy coming up to the side to look at the primates gawking at them. I would be tickled to see one in the wild.

  5. If you want a non-tourist place to spot one and chill, in the winter they love to hang out in the (relatively) warm water from the power plant's discharge. Last time I saw 'em was pre-9/11, so I don't know if security would get uptight these days, but the manatees will be as friendly as ever.

  6. Good thing that the springs on Crystal River gush out almost 100 million gallons of fresh water a day…

    Those creatures (cute and endearing as they are) eat and poop – and breed. They are the cattle of the sea and they congregate in Crystal River – which used to live up to its name.

    Used to be a beautiful river, but now it is nothing but muck. Except around the springs, where all the nature bunnies go to get 'close' to nature and not have to swim in the muck.

    Sigh… There are too many manatees in Crystal River, andwhether or not their 'natural' home is the sea, they come in and they never leave. They eat, poop and breed there. Hundreds. Possibly thousands. The rest of the river stinks. It is only 'nice' where the toilet flushes constantly – the springs.

    They tend to hang around marinas too, as people wash their boats down with fresh water and these creatures require fresh water. They don't drink sea water. They eat around #100 lbs a day. Hundreds of them pooping full time all day, every day…

    An old Floridian from Crystal Springs told me that they used to be kept in check because they made for excellent barbecue.

    Another government 'endangered species'. But the river is 'dirty' because of PEOPLE!!

    (Sorry to 'poop' on your cute parade BRM – I am charmed by them too, but there is a downside… and when the government gets involved it can be pretty nasty.)

  7. Several years ago I was visiting Sea World and was watching the manatees when one of them released a load of feces… which another one promptly ate. I haven't been all that enamored with them since.

    However, this past November I was scuba diving in Blue Springs which is outside DeLand FL, about halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach, when I ran into some manatees hanging out near the exit stairs. I was watching them and one ended up swimming so close to me that I actually had to put my hand out to keep it from running into me. I'll admit, that was cool.

  8. The Cincinnati Zoo has a few, of they did last time I was there, with an excellent viewing tank. They were snoozy and cuddled with one another charmingly,

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