MIAMI (AP) - As manatees begin their annual migration to warmer waters, state wildlife officials cautioning boaters on Friday to slow down and watch out for these slow-moving mammals.
The migration along rivers, canals, bays and coastlines is the animals' instinctual response to winter's approach and surviving the cold, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a statement.
The average adult manatee is 1,000 pounds and 10-feet long, but may be difficult to spot despite its size.
"You can help manatees by slowing down and following posted speed zones when operating boats or personal watercraft. Manatees often feed in shallow seagrass beds adjacent to deeper waters," said Carol Knox, the commission's Imperiled Species Management Section Leader. "Wearing polarized sunglasses helps you spot a manatee underwater. Also watch for circular wave patterns on the water's surface - called manatee footprints - indicating a manatee's presence below."
Many seasonal manatee protection speed zone posted across the state go into effect Nov. 15.
November is also Manatee Awareness Month and the manatee is Florida's official state marine mammal, the commission added.
The FWC asked residents and visitors to report sick, injured, entangled or dead manatees to wildlife officials.
Residents can also support manatee conservation efforts by purchasing a manatee license plate or decal.
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