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WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla.-- A once rare manatee sighting in Wakulla Springs seems to be more and more frequent these days.
Quite the sight, but also a sign of a growing issue. The are likely at the springs because of a lack of warm water elsewhere. High water temps mean better survival during the cold days of winter.
“Warm water habitat is really important and vital habitat to manatees," said Ron Mezich with FWC Manatee Management.
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Mezich says about two thirds of manatees have been relying on warm water from power plants. Spots that are disappearing.
“Through regulations or through technology— those plants are going to change and they may not be as sufficient as they are now," he ways.
Without those sources the worry is manatees will tumble back to endangered status or worse. So, Fish and Wildlife has come up with a plan. Move the mammals back to warm-water springs.
Often blocked by dams or other construction, efforts are underway to improve access to and protection of the areas. Potentially encouraging migration.
“We’re going to have to change behaviors. That will take some time, but manatees have proven they’re very adaptable," Mezich said.
Perhaps in time, places like Wakulla Springs will be a real hot spot for manatee sightings, while remaining a warm spot for the animals to call home.
There are more than 30 major springs in Florida. Experts say they have plenty of room for manatees. They estimate only about 18% of the animals call springs home.