Monday, 15 February 2016

Hundreds of manatees congregate in Florida refuge to escape chilly seas

Three Sisters Springs closed to swimmers and kayakers
400 of the marine mammals leave Gulf of Mexico to gather in river system
Oliver Milman in New York

Thursday 11 February 2016 16.31 GMT
Last modified on Thursday 11 February 201617.11 GMT

A popular Florida wildlife refuge has been closed to swimmers, thanks to an influx of hundreds of manatees.

It’s estimated that as many has 400 manatees have crowded into the Three Sisters Springs, a refuge about 65 miles north of Tampa. About 1,000 manatees live in the Kings Bay and Crystal River ecosystem, of which Three Sisters Springs is a part. A large number of the marine mammals are wedged in a spring called Idiot’s Delight.

The manatee invasion has caused the closure of Three Sisters Springs throughout this week. A boardwalk in the refuge is open for visitors to see the manatees but swimmers and kayakers have been warned to stay away while the animals group together.

The manatee traffic jam has been caused by low temperatures that have driven the animals from their foraging in the Gulf of Mexico. Frosty conditions in Crystal River on Thursday morning, with further chilly weather expected next week, meant the manatee huddle could continue for several more days.

“It has been very cold lately and so a lot of manatees have been hanging out in the springs,” Cynthia Moore, Three Sisters Springs visitor experience coordinator, told the Guardian.
 “Hunger will drive them back out into the Gulf of Mexico to feed but if they aren’t hungry they will hang out together to keep warm.

“They often do this when the weather is cold. It’s quite a spectacle really, it’s one of the only places in the world where you see so many manatees in one place.”

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