Have you had an encounter with a manatee? If you did, would you know what to do?
An Indian Rocks Beach family saw a young manatee and played with it. They recorded the whole experience and posted it to YouTube.
While the manatee seems to be having a good time and the family members are enjoying their guest, they are actually putting the manatee in danger. They also may be breaking federal law.
Giving food or water to the manatee, which is an endangered species, is against the Marine Mammal Protection Act and against the law.
When you see a manatee, here are three tips for going about the situation and keeping the manatee safe from the Florida Manatee Fact Sheet.
- Don't feed or give water to the manatee: They may look like they're thirsty or need food, but you'll be doing more harm than good. By doing this, you're encouraging the manatee to approach all humans, including boaters. Boats pose a risk to manatees, injuring, maiming and killing them in high numbers.
- Look, but don't touch: You may want to pet the manatee, but that just gets it more used to and accustomed to human life. By doing this, you may inadvertently encourage the manatee to venture out into more treacherous boat lanes to find people.
- Observe Passively: The ocean is not a petting zoo but a marine wilderness. By staying back and watching from a distance, you can see the manatee in its natural environment and not worry about disturbing their natural way of life or inadvertently posing a risk to its welfare.
For more information, check out the Save the Manatee Club, which offers a directory of parks and other places to visit to see manatees in the wild. The website also shows photos of "safe" viewing of manatees in their natural habitat.