Manatees know a good thing when they see it.
At least that seems to be the case in Citrus County where record-breaking numbers of manatees are congregating in the warm waters near Crystal River.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had to shut down access to Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River when an estimated 300 sea cows moved into the area to enjoy the warmer waters. Now, wildlife officials are saying they’ve taken a more complete headcount in the Citrus County area.
That count, according to Bay News 9, added up to 797 manatees, which handily breaks the old record of 657.
“This area, with all the warm water springs, is just that perfect haven for them,” the station quoted the wildlife service’s Kimberly Sykes as saying.
Three Sisters Springs is part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Citrus County. That park is the only refuge created especially for the protection of endangered Florida manatee, the wildlife service notes on its website.
“This unique refuge preserves the last unspoiled and undeveloped spring habitat in Kings Bay, which forms the headwaters of the Crystal River,” the website states. “The refuge preserves the most important aquifer fed spring havens in Kings Bay (King Spring and Three Sisters Springs), which provide critical habitat for the manatee populations that migrate here each winter.”
The park was established under federal protection in 1983 and is one of more than 550 wildlife refuges across the country.
Visitors are welcomed to check out the refuge, but water traffic – especially as of late – is sometimes off limits. The park is located at 1502 S.E. Kings Bay Drive in Crystal River. For more information about refuge hours and attractions, visit it online.
To learn more about Florida’s manatee population, visit the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website.
Photos from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Facebook page
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