Manatees invaded a natural spring in Florida, prompting scores of volunteers to rush to protect the massive mammals. A total of 300 manatees converged upon Three Sisters Spring, with 65 of the mammals gathering at one time on average.
The manatees began arrive around noon at the Three Sisters Spring central pool. Volunteers blocked off the public walkways in an effort to protect the mammals that were gravitating to the shallow natural spring so they could warm themselves.
The Citrus County wildlife park was forced to shut down so the massive influx of manatees could be dealt with properly.
Last week about 220 manatees decided to make the Three Sisters Spring their new temporary home. Florida wildlife workers consider the migration of manatees on Monday a “dramatic surge.” The manatees began arriving when the tide rose. Over the course of an hour, about 290 manatees had arrived at that natural spring. A cold front was expected to arrive on Monday evening, according the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The wildlife staffers were waiting until sunrise today to determine if it was necessary to keep the Three Sisters Spring closed for the protection of the manatees. The extreme low tide is expected to occur around 10:44 a.m. this morning.
Florida Springs website excerpt detailing why the area is popular with and important to the manatees of the region.
“This last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay, the headwaters of the Crystal River, is critical for protection of the West Indian Manatee. The springs in the bay, with their constant 72 degree Fahrenheit water, provide essential warm water refuge for the manatees that congregate there in the winter months.”
“There are about 30 known springs in all of Kings Bay. The primary springs within the wildlife refuge are Idiots Delight, Three Sisters, and the King Springs group, which includes Tarpon Hole, Mullet’s Gullet, and Little Hidden springs. Three Sisters springs is the only one accessible by land; all of the others are boat accessible only. The land around Three Sisters was acquired in 2010 and is currently open to the public only on certain dates.”
[Images via emol.org and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]