The Florida manatee is a large mammal with a body that tapers down to a paddle like tail. They have two front flippers and each flipper has between three and four nails. The closest 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 areas, 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 coast to the Carolinas with some having ventures as far north as Massachusetts.
Manatees are docile and slow moving mammals. Most of the time they are found eating, resting, and on the move. Manatees are herbivorous meaning they are vegetarian and consume only plants and algae. They will consume 10-15% of their body weight daily in vegetation. Manatees may rest on the bottom, or just below the surface, for up to 20 minutes. They can swim close to 20 miles per hour, but usually do so in only short bursts when scared or trying to get out of harm’s way,
It is estimated that manatees can live as long as 60 years. They have no known enemies except for man and most 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 years. Mothers will nurse their young for between 1 and 2 years, during that time the calf will remain dependent on the mother.