Where Do Manatees Live? 5 Places They Are Found

where do manatees live

Manatees are aquatic mammals that are part of the Sirenia family of mammals, but due to their unusual water preferences, the question arises “where do manatees live?” The African manatee, West Indian manatee, and the Amazonian manatee are the three species of manatee. They are usually found in tropical and subtropical waters in Africa, North America, and South America.

West African and West Indian manatees inhabit rivers, bays, lagoons, and coastal regions. They may effortlessly migrate between habitats in freshwater, brackish, and saltwater. The Amazonian manatee can only live in the freshwater Amazon basin as they are unusual or close to extinction in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. Let’s explore more about their habitats.

Where Do Manatees Live?

The manatee prefers the murky waters of estuaries, bays, lagoons, and slow-moving rivers. It will move to warmer areas if necessary because it cannot tolerate temperatures of the water below 8 degrees Celsius and likes them to be above 20 degrees Celsius. 

Manatees typically live alone or in small family groups. Still, during winter storms in tropical seas, they will congregate in more significant numbers near a heated power plant discharge or a warmer spring outflow. In the chilly morning hours, they hang vertically in the water with only their snouts visible, but as the day warms, more of their bodies are seen at the surface.

The manatee must emerge to breathe since it is a mammal. It can reportedly stay underwater for up to 15 minutes, although it usually comes to the surface every five to ten minutes. It cannot live outside the water partly because it cannot move. And because it needs the water support to breathe because of its heavy body.

5 Places Manatees Are Found 

The four groups of sea cows have distinct geographic ranges that do not overlap and are more likely distant from each other. Let’s learn more about places where you can see Manatees.

1: Manatees at Citrus County

The manatee capital of the world is Citrus County. Several tour companies provide opportunities to go up close to manatees, which enjoy the warm, clear spring waters year-round. 

According to your preferences, you may get a close-up view of these creatures by getting on a tour boat, going on an adventurous trip in a kayak or canoe, or swimming or diving with them. One of the Famous Places to View Manatees.

2: Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River

Three Sisters Springs, one of the most well-known manatee hot spots, is the most significant winter sanctuary for manatees on the Gulf Coast. While manatees can be found year-round in Kings Bay, the area receives extra protection as a designated sanctuary in winter months and can only be seen from the boardwalk vantage point. 

You might find up to 30 manatees in the summer from April to November, and while there are strict rules on how to interact, visitors can swim, kayak, and canoe with the manatees on a scheduled tour. Its crystal blue waters, which make it one of the state’s most aesthetically spectacular springs, add to the magnificent thrill of watching the manatees float below the surface.

3: Manatee Springs State Park, Chiefland

Manatee Springs State Park, located near Chiefland, offers manatees a winter haven of warm water. 

Manatees migrate up the Suwannee River to Florida’s springs during these cooler months. You can see manatees roving the region from November to April thanks to a connecting run that brings them there. A first-magnitude spring with a daily output of 100 million gallons of clean water, it’s a well-liked spot of Manatees all year round for kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

4: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Spring Hill

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida is one hour north of Tampa in Spring Hill. The endangered West Indies manatees prefer to gather at an extinct spring- Hospital Hole. 

You may float down the Weeki Wachee River’s crystal-clear waters under a natural canopy of cypress and oak trees to find them gliding down. You will also enjoy a manatee with observation platforms from which they may see the mammals in their natural environment.

5: Manatee Observation and Educational Center, Fort Pierce

The Florida manatee is found at the Manatee Observation and Instructional Center in Fort Pierce, on Florida’s east coast. You will enjoy a boardwalk and observation tower with various attractive viewing options. 

Although manatees may be seen at Moore’s Creek all year round, you should visit in the winter to enjoy the best view. See live marine and freshwater manatees in the exhibit hall and learn about the behaviors of manatees. 

5 Threats To Manatees’ Habitats

Humans are the number one threat to the manatees. Due to their slow movement and tranquil nature, manatees are susceptible to environmental changes brought about by people. 

Human activities like fishing, boating, and land development seriously endanger manatees. This is why protected zones have been established and are marked by signs prohibiting motorboat traffic. Let’s discuss some of the threats to manatees’ habitats.

1: Boats & Fishing Equipment

Most of the time, manatees eat and reside in shallow waters. Rivers, canals, and coastal ways are the ideal environments for these creatures. Sadly, this makes them easy prey for fishing equipment and boats.

Watercraft interactions are thought to be responsible for 20% of manatee fatalities. Manatees are large animals that may grow nine to ten feet long, yet they are challenging to see when vessels move quickly through inland rivers.

Manatees are particularly sensitive to the cold. Because of this, they stay out of the deep waters until there is a storm. This implies that they frequently become unintentionally trapped in fishing equipment.

These sea cows can hold their breath for 20 minutes, yet they still require air. They frequently return to the surface to refuel their lungs. They can’t rise to the surface after becoming trapped in fishing nets, and thus they drown.

2: Starvation Caused by HAB

Due to malnutrition, there were unprecedented numbers of manatee fatalities in Florida. Manatees eat only plants, and hence they depend on seagrass for food. The prevalence of HABs, or toxic algal blooms, has led to a sharp decline in the availability of this manatee availability of food. Manatees are consuming the remaining impacted seagrass because they are hungry, which is causing poisoning, another problem.

The seagrass becomes poisonous due to the “red tide” occurrence, and it causes convulsions and drowning in manatees after swallowing and building up these poisons.

3: High-Level Pollution

Plastic pollution is also harming manatee habitats and killing manatees, in addition to chemical contamination. Manatees are ingesting plastic bags drifting in the water, and their digestive systems are clogged with the objects.

These creatures have been discovered dead, and postmortem investigations have revealed that a rope-like path of plastic bags connected their stomach and intestines.

In another occurrence, a manatee was discovered with an open wound after being trapped in a plastic bag for two years. Similarly, manatees are readily entangled and caught up in our waste because they swim in shallow areas where the material is stuck on plants.

4: Manatee Habitats Temperature

Manatees and their ecosystems are at risk from fluctuating water temperatures. As previously mentioned, manatees are sensitive to cold temperatures because they are susceptible to hypothermia like normal humans.

One of the leading causes of mortality for manatees that are not connected to humans is cold weather-associated hypothermia and frostbite. As the water temperature falls below 68 degrees due to cold fronts and lousy weather, manatees that haven’t fled their habitat in search of warmer climates perish.

Manatees are susceptible to a condition known as cold stress because they have less fat than other marine animals like seals and whales. Thus, once their body heat is lost, they discontinue digesting their food, which is deadly.

5: Human Impacts on Manatees’ Habitats

Humans are destroying Manatee habitats with their recreation as well as fishing activities. Manatees inhabit coastal seas, estuaries, rivers, and busy boating areas.

Also, because they consume seagrass, which thrives in sunny, shallow areas, they spend much time at the surface, increasing their vulnerability to boat strikes. Boat collisions still cause the majority of manatee deaths.

One of the numerous creatures harmed by marine garbage is the manatee. Similar to what has been observed in other creatures like turtles, whales, and sharks, manatees can get trapped in fishing lines or eat rubbish made of plastic. Sometimes, Manatee flippers get amputated due to entanglement in the fishing net.

4 Ways to Protect Manatees Habitats

Protecting and conserving Manatees’ habitats is crucial to help the ecosystem maintain a balance. 

1: Decrease Pollution and Harmful Toxins

Reduced chemical and plastic pollution can assist in safeguarding manatees, prevent seagrass die-off, and protect Florida’s rivers from algal blooms.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) researchers, one in ten manatee deaths include plastic waste. He also remembers a manatee that died after consuming a 3-foot ball of cantaloupe-sized plastic bags, with a smaller piece of plastic later discovered in its guts.

Multilayer plastics are typically not recyclable, block recycling processes, and end up in the environment where they endanger animals. One strategy to avoid damaging manatee habitats is to choose things without packing and reduce trash. Landscaping without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is also essential since many toxins enter the water through runoff.

2: Take caution while boating

Boat crashes cause 20% to 25% of manatee mortality, more than any other marine creature, according to a 10-year study by the FWC. In a different research, mooring, and boat traffic reduced the underwater vegetation by 58%, reducing the seagrass density.

Adherence to safe recreational boating procedures, such as avoiding seagrass meadows and manatee habitats, is preferable. If it’s challenging to prevent seagrass, trimming the motor and idling in deeper seas will also stop habitat destruction.

3: Avoid Feeding the Manatees

It is prohibited to provide manatees food or fresh water, despite the FWC recently voting to feed Florida’s manatees as a trial program to increase the species’ chances of survival.

The FWC is understandably worried about how their judgment may affect public disrespect for the law, for which a violation might result in a $500 provincial penalty and a 60-day jail term. Federal penalties for feeding endangered wildlife include $100,000 in fines and a year in prison.

Manatees may link humans and boats as food sources due to human interactions with them, such as feeding, increasing their danger of accidents and mortality.

4: Make Donations of Time and Resources

For the sake of the manatee and to stop the loss of seagrass, you can donate your time during cleanup campaigns. Several statewide manatee conservation groups maintain a calendar of activities that individuals can register for.

The best ways to protect the environment are to stay educated and provide money and necessary supplies to Florida’s wildlife protection.


Now that you know “where do manatees live?” understanding their habitual behavior is not difficult. Although being loners, manatees have no trouble residing in areas where other manatees are present. 

Manatees inhabit shallow, slow-moving bodies of water, including rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal regions, especially where large seagrass beds or freshwater plants are. Natural nesting places are removed when new buildings are constructed alongside rivers. Algal blooms are brought on by sewage, manure, and fertilizer runoff into the water. We can all take action to help safeguard manatees. When boating, follow all speed zone signs and pay attention to manatees. Clearly and cleanly dispose of plastic and trash. 


Do manatees live in freshwater?

Yes. They may be found in freshwater for most of the year. Usually, they prefer the calmer rivers, estuaries, bays, and canals along Florida’s coast.

Do manatees live in saltwater?

Yes, they do. Manatees may obtain all the fresh water they want by consuming plants. Thus, they do not worry about drinking water.

Where are manatees found in the world?

Manatees colonize the shallow, marshy coastal regions and rivers of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon basin, and West Africa.

What city in Florida has manatees?

There are a few cities in Florids where you can glance over this beautiful mammal- Orlanda, Homosassa, Miami, Sarasota, and Bradenton.

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