Photo by NOAA National Ocean Service
Anna Maria Island includes several areas where manatees graze seagrass beds and pass through boat channels and canals. On the Gulf beach, in 2011, a herd of 13 manatee congregated and had to be patrolled by Police to keep onlookers from endangering themselves and the animals.
Finding and viewing manatees in the wild is a rare occurrence
but Bradenton has one, named “Snooty”, at the South Florida Museum. He was born in 1948 and is the oldest manatee in captivity. You can see “Snooty” at the Parker Manatee Aquarium, 201 10th St W., Bradenton.Update July 23, 2017: Snooty died by accident one day after its 69th birthday.
Mote Marine Lab has two manatees, and numerous other aquatic wildlife, at their research facility Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, at City Island off Lido Key.
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Watching out for manatee in Bimini Bay, Anna Maria Island
It is a huge privilege to get to see manatees in the wild on Anna Maria Island. Especially considering the fact that they probably will be extinct within the next hundred years. Those of us who spend time on or near the water know the tell-tale pattern on the surface that indicates manatees are below. A series of flat circles usually appears and then, every once in awhile, the nose of a manatee may surface. Sometimes the manatee pushes it nose through the water for a distance. Sometimes its back surfaces, too. Often, the back is badly scarred, having been hit by boat propellers.
A couple of years ago, we spotted a manatee swimming by the house, heading up the bay, and we quickly launched kayaks to go look for it. We eventually found two manatees. We stopped paddling and sat still, drifting, to observe them in the clear, shallow water. As we drifted, I ended up closer to the larger manatee than I would have liked to be. The sheer size of this gentle animal was a bit intimidating. I was worried for both it and myself that we might have an awkward collision unintentionally. Fortunately, I gradually drifted away and then kept a little more distance.
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