Today marked a big day for our golden retriever puppy. He experienced his first kayak adventure! He's kind of a baby when it comes to the bay, even though his breed traditionally has an instinctive love of water. This was what it looked like getting him into the boat:
Once he got in and situated, he did great!
The purpose of our trip was to look for manatees. We have seen both dolphins and manatees near our house but we had heard rumors of a canal where they commonly hang out. We needed to see for ourselves if such a place existed.. and indeed it does! We have actually made this trip a few times, but due to the stormy weather that has accompanied the start of hurricane season, they have not been as active. This trip, however, was very successful.
We paddled toward the canal as the hot sun reflected off the water, almost blinding me in the front of the kayak. Fin sat up and watched the paddle intensely and we even got nervous that he might try to jump in after it! We got him to lay down in the kayak once again and the boat stable as we approached the canal. When looking for Manatees, you typically want to watch for large dark shadows under the water and movement under the surface.
Patience is key in finding manatees! They have to come up for air every 4-5 minutes and usually just poke their noses up above the surface. Sometimes you can see their whole bodies breach the surface as they are rolling around which exposes their fins and sometimes their tail.
We caught a few glimpses of a fin while we waited and even found an inhabited shell amidst the oyster bed we were parked in.
Manatees eat seagrass. They also LOVE fresh water. They migrate toward the fresh water springs in the winter months and back out in the warmer months. Remember, they are mammals just like us. When water temperatures fall below 68°F manatees become cold-stressed and can die when Florida has severe cold weather. In early 2010, more than 400 manatees died, a record number, and most of died because of the cold weather. They have to swim to somewhere where the water temperatures are warmer! Springs have naturally warm water in the winter, and some power plants pump warm water into the coastal areas, which creates warm places where manatees can spend the winter months. If these power plants were to shut off for any reason, those manatees would die. Many manatees can also be killed by boat propellers. It is because of this that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently moved to create manatee protection zones along the intracoastal waterway in Pinellas County. We are very happy about this movement and feel it should have been done already, and according to a news article from the Beach Beacon, the call for concern in labeling this area as a place in need of manatee protection began in 2007 and is just now coming to fruition. In either case, we will be happy knowing these beautiful creatures will be more protected and the importance of their safety acknowledged.
***Certain parts of the Crystal River and Homosassa Springs are designated as manatee sanctuaries. Boats are forbidden to enter these areas between November 15 and March 31. Also, it is illegal to feed, touch or otherwise harass marine mammals in Florida, including manatees. While manatees are gentle and nonaggressive, respect their personal space at all times.
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