Mark Long Photography | Manatees - Florida's Gentle Giants

Springs and Manatees go hand in hand. We wouldn't have any of these gentle animals in North Florida without the springs. Manatees can only live in warm water. Anything below about sixty eight degrees F can harm them if they are exposed to the cold for too long. Our North Florida springs are the same temperatures year-round. They vary from 68 to 74 degrees F. The Crystal River and King's Bay have dozens of 72 degree springs "oases" for these creatures to harbor. Crystal River also has something almost no other part of Florida has--many boating "no-wake" protection zones for manatees. There are many threats manatees but boating hits has traditionally been the greatest threat. Almost every adult manatee bears the scars of boat collisions. Recently excessive summer red tides and especially cold winters have also taken their toll on south Florida manatee populations.

Most of these photos were taken at Three Sisters Spring in Crystal River. Manatees also like to eat the plant life that grows in these clear water, warm habitats. Sadly the submerged plants manatees favor is declining due to lowering water flows and changes in water chemistry. This change is due in part to the recent long term drought and due mainly to over withdrawal by humans of water from the underground aquifers that feed the springs. Manatees have long memories and remember every winter, as the Gulf of Mexico waters cool, to return to the springs to wait out the cold weather.
Manatee in the MorningManatee in BlueThe FishbowlManatee Mother and BabyWho is More Curious?What's in There?Barrel RollItchy ManateeThe Manatee WatchersSalad EatersResting RocksRefuge from the ColdSomeone's Been In Salt WaterSheltering from the ColdSunning ManateesSmiling in the SunshineManatee SunbeamsManattes Huddling in the WarmthManatees Sheltering at Three Sisters Spring