A herd of at least nine manatees swam into shallow water less than 10 feet from the shoreline at Siesta Key public beach yesterday. The endangered marine mammals will remain at location for as long as several days to mate, according to Mote Marine Laboratory staff biologist with stranding investigations Emma Jugovich.
Mike Czarnecki, a tourist from New Jersey who was watching the spectacle, said when he first approached, he feared the manatees were stranded on the beach.
“At first I saw the two (manatees) and I thought they were beached carcasses,” Czarnecki said. “I thought the other ones were swimming around to help them — but I guess they’re just having a good time.”
Several onlookers waded into the water near the manatees to take pictures, but were shooed away by Jugovich, who said disturbing the marine mammals is illegal. Mote Marine works closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to protect manatees and will have a rotating crew of staff members, interns and volunteers protecting the herd from human contact.