The Florida manatee is a large mammal with a body that tapers down to a paddle like tail. They have two front flippers and every flipper has between three and four nails. The nearest relative to the manatee is the elephant. On average, an adult manatee is approximately 10 feet long and weighs 1000 pounds.
You can find manatees in shallow water coastal regions, slow moving rivers and estuaries, mainly where sea grass beds or fresh water vegetation are abundant. Manatees are a migratory animal. In the United States, manatees are concentrated in Florida during the winter months and in the summer months, manatees may travel as far west as Texas, and north along the Atlantic shore to the Carolinas with some having partnerships as far north as Massachusetts.
Most of the time they are found resting, eating, and on the move. Manatees are herbivorous meaning they’re vegetarian and consume only algae and plants. Manatees may rest on the bottom, or just under the surface, for up to 20 minutes. They can swim close to 20 miles per hour, but do so in just short bursts when scared or attempting to get out of harm’s way,
It’s projected that manatees can live as long as 60 years. They have no known enemies except for man and many human related deaths are caused by watercraft. Ultimately, the manatee’s loss of habitat is the most serious threat in the United States today.
The gestation rate for manatees is 12 months. A female will give birth on average only every two to five decades. Mothers will nurse their young for between 1 and 2 years, during that time the calf will remain dependent on the mother.