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Mission Manatee

Mission Manatee is a program to investigate the Estero Bay manatee population and to record and document behavior, scarring, and migration patterns. Through education, we plan to create an awareness and understanding of our endangered manatee.

Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus)

Large, seal-like body that tapers to a beaver-like tail. Two forelimbs with three or four nails on each. Thick skin, with stiff whiskers on upper lip.

Gray or gray-brown

9 to 10 feet long, weighing 1000 lbs. Can grow to be 13 feet, weighing more than 3000 lbs.

Completely harmless and non-aggressive

Depth perception may be limited. Can differentiate colors


Despite absence of external ear lobes, can hear well but directional hearing is limited


Emits sounds that are within human auditory range. May squeak or squeal when frightened. Also communicate between cow and calf.


Nostrils on upper surface of snout close tightly like valves when submerged. When active, surfaces every few minutes. When resting, every 10-15 minutes


Primarily restricted to peninsular Florida and south Georgia. May be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, salt water bays, canals, and coastal areas particularlly where sea grass beds flourish. May live in fresh or salt water

Normally calve every 2 to 5 years

The manatee is protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which make it illegal to harass, hunt, kill, or capture any marine mammal. The manatee is also protected by the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 which states: "It is unlawful for any person, at any time, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee."

Anyone convicted of violating this state law faces a possible maximum fine of $500 and/or imprisonment for up to 60 days. Conviction on the federal level is punishable by fine up to $50,000 and/or 1 year in prison. The state of Florida can pursue prosecution under federal law in circumstances of extreme harassment, resulting in death or injury of a manatee.

To report manatee injuries, deaths, tag sightings, or harassment, call 1-800-DIAL-FMP (1-800-342-5367)

The manatee is dependent on us for its survival. It is only through your help and support that this "Gentle Giant" may remain around for others to enjoy.

Ostego Bay Foundation, Fort Myers Beach Florida, mammal marine science, education, research, dolphin and manatee behavior, marine biology, Gulf of Mexico science, Estero Marine Laboratory, Oil Spill Co-op, Florida Master Naturalists
Look, but do not touch a manatee. Do not attempt to draw the animal closer to you by feeding or watering it.
Do not pursue the manatee(s) while swimming, boating, or observing.
Do not attempt to isolate an individual manatee. Never separate a cow from her calf.
When boating, observe all manatee speed zones and caution areas.

Ostego Bay Foundation, Inc. - A member supported organization
718 Fisherman's Wharf - Fort Myers Beach, Florida 33931 - 239-765-8101