Siesta Key beach goers get close to pod of manatees

Experts say swimmers should give manatees a wide berth.

SIESTA KEY, Fla. -- A typical afternoon swim up the coast for these manatees turned into a rare experience for beach goers on Siesta Key.

But did they get too close?

“The crowd stayed back, viewed them and stayed out of their way so they could move on. All in all, it's pretty good viewing from what I can tell,” says Ron Mezich with FWC’s Manatee Management Program .

He says it’s not unusual for manatees to get this close to shore.

“I did notice a fair number of animals traveling together, so maybe it's the beginning of a mating herd. Interesting.”

Wildlife will let you know when you’re too close. Mezich says,

“When animals react to you, you’re too close because the disturbance may be considered harassing the animal. We tell people to stand back and enjoy the view, and try not pursue animals or it could become a form of harassment.”

  Manatees are a threatened and endangered species, and it’s illegal to touch or feed them for their safety, says Mezich.

“Feeding or watering manatees be a form of harassment. They don’t need our water or food. It can habituate them to boats and people, and that puts them in harm’s way,” says Mezich.

Keep a distance---it’s for your safety, too.

“Typically, they are docile and don’t tend to be aggressive, but they are very large animals, over 1,000 pounds. If spooked, they can move fast. Their flukes and tails are very strong; if it hits a leg or arm, bones can be easily broken.”

But if you ever get a chance to see a group of manatees off the beach, Mezich says, “It’s always a good day when you see pod of manatee.”

FWC says if you see a stranded animal, don’t touch it. Call the FWC hotline -- 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922) or another local animal rescue group for help. 

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