Published: Jan 07, 2014 5:57 PM EST
Updated: Jan 08, 2014 8:19 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Now is the time to spot manatees. Our colder weather is bringing dozens of the endangered animals to Lee County's waterways, and Manatee Park. WINK News spotted dozens of them Tuesday.

From the large and in charge, to mothers and their babies, Florida's gentle giants are crowding the canal, and putting on quite a show for tourists and locals alike. 

"It's pretty cool to see them in their natural habitat," said one visitor. 

Tim Martell, with Manatee Guides, says the water is getting cold by manatee standards!  They're here at Manatee Park to soak up the warm water discharge coming from the FPL power plant, as the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico drops below 68 degrees. 

"A manatee only has about 3 inches of body fat on it, which means right around the 68 degree mark it will start to get cold," explained Martell. 

He's especially encouraged by the number of little ones, after last year's record number of red tide deaths. "Mothers will bring the calves here for their safety and protection," said Martell. "The cold is actually the number one cause for mortality for the manatee."

It's a sight that's certainly drawing a crowd, armed with cameras. Adam Howe, visiting from Michigan, is using this opportunity to teach his daughter about nature. "It's pretty neat and it's her first time, so we're learning as we go," Howe said. 

Martell expects the manatees to linger at the plant, and in canals around the area for a good part of this week, which means: heads up to boaters: be extra cautious.

Remember, if you see a manatee in distress, call FWC immediately.

Manatee Park: (239) 690-5030

10901 State Road 80 (Palm Beach Blvd.)
Fort Myers, FL

 Book a kayak tour with Manatee Guides, and learn more information here: