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Letters
Manatees Looking for Hot Spots During Cold Weather
We made a quick trip down to Tampa over the last few
days. Actually, I’m pretty lucky to be writing this, as our
return yesterday involved a 2.5 hr tarmac hold at Dallas,
de-icing and watching a record blizzard drop a foot of
snow there. Ours was one of the lucky few planes to get off
the ground, and it was pure joy to get back to 50 degrees in
Seattle and Port Townsend.
But back to Tampa.
While there, we heard about the weird Florida weather
and how it’s affecting the local manatees. These 1,000
pound sea cows need shallow water that’s about 75-80
degrees F, and the Gulf right now is 58. So, what are the
manatees doing? No, they can’t just go to Florida for the
winter! The local coal-fired power plant has a 78 degree
outfall into a nearby river and mangrove forest, and the
manatees have all gone there to hang out. We counted
about 150 of them, but locals said upwards of 300 have
been spotted at once. The power plant has built a pretty
good viewing platform that gets you to within about 20
feet of some of these soft giants, so you really get to study
them. Also enjoying the warmth was a six foot shark and a
bunch of rays “flying” around between the bigger beasts. It
was quite a show.
Manatees are very interesting critters. They normally
spend upwards of half a day sleeping on the shallow
bottoms of bays and rivers, only breathing once every 10-
20 minutes. They don’t exhale to descend, but compress
stored air, and in this way can stay down very long periods
of time. They can eat upwards of 100 pounds of “greens” a
day. Manatees are not doing very well because of invasive
species that are choking out their watery homes - as well as
being hit by boat propellers, so this was a real treat to see.
Larry Eifert
Port Townsend, WA
48° No r t h , Ma r c h 2010 Pa g e 12
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