A record number of manatees are flocking to an Apollo Beach canal. Why?

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Manatees at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center // Credit: TECO Energy press release

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Manatees have been flocking to a popular canal in Apollo Beach at record rates.

The manatees gather in the clean, warm water discharge canal of a Tampa Electric Power Station. Above the canal is the Manatee Viewing Center, where hundreds of visitors flock each day to see the mammals up close.

Jamie Woodlee is the operations administrator at the center.

“Every year, FWC, or Florida Wildlife Commission, does a flyover, and they count manatees in the canal. And this year, they flew over in January and counted, like, 1,180. So, 1,100 manatees is a lot of manatees in one spot, so it was really exciting to hear. And to me, that means the numbers might be rising. We’re seeing a lot of babies too.”

And as for the cause?

“A lot more cold weather back to back, so they have to seek out warm water. Water temperatures below 68, they can become cold stressed, so they have to seek water that’s warmer than 68 degrees in order to survive.”

The viewing center is a free and brought almost 500 thousand visitors last year. Kimberly Barrie was there on a group outing.

“The manatees, I saw about 10. And there was a dolphin jumping around, so it was a fun day.”

Visitors can also enjoy a stingray tank and a nature trail at the center.

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