Manatees in St. Augustine Waters

One of the most beloved creatures in wild Florida has to be the manatee. We’re lucky to have manatees in St. Augustine waters, and have assembled some frequently asked questions (FAQs) so that you can learn more about them.

Will we see manatees on our tour?

Manatees are migratory and are rather solitary – they don’t move in large groups like dolphins , so they are a little harder to spot. We do occasionally see them while on a tour, especially during the summer months when the local water temperature is to their liking. We’re most likely to see a manatee in St. Augustine around the dock as we’re heading out, although we do see them out in the open water as well.

Manatee under water

How do you spot a manatee in the water?

Manatees don’t tend to bring their bodies up and out of the water, but instead poke their snout up to get air. They are mammals, so they have to come up for a breath. When they move through the water, they stay submerged, but you can spot the pattern that they make on the surface of the water. As their tail moves, concentric rings appear on the surface of the water indicating where they have just been. It’s a bit of a challenge to initially see, but your captain knows what to look for and always keeps an eye out.

What do manatees eat and how much do they weigh?

Manatees are actually herbivores and can eat up to 10-15% of their body weight in aquatic vegetation each day. They can weight from 800 to 1,200 pounds. While they look round and chubby, they don’t really have that much body fat due to their vegetarian diet. Instead, they have a very large digestive tract to deal with all of the plant material that they eat.

Are manatees related to walruses or seals?

Manatee surfacing

Manatees are aquatic mammals, just like walruses, sea lions, and seals, but they aren’t related species. According to the manatee profile provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manatees’ closest relatives are actually the elephant and the hyrax (a small gopher-sized mammal).

Do manatees live everywhere off the coast of Florida?

Yes, they do. The species we have here, the Florida Manatee (which is a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee) makes Florida its primary home in the winter. During summer months they do move around and can be spotted as far west as Texas and occasionally as far north as Massachusetts.

How many manatees are there in Florida?

According to the Save the Manatee Club, estimates put the last aerial count of the Florida Manatee population at around 5,700 manatees. The manatee remains a threatened species.

How can we help manatees, since they are considered a threatened species?

One of the most important things that we can all do is to slow down and watch for manatees when boating and make sure to observe manatee zones whenever you encounter them on waterways. Manatees also need their habitat to be intact, which includes clean water to live in. The Save the Manatee Club is a great resource for information on helping manatees in the wild.