(NEW YORK) — Hundreds of manatees have gathered together in a Florida spring to escape the winter chill, drawing scores of visitors.
While there are believed to be more than 1,000 manatees currently gathered in Kings Bay, the headwaters of the Crystal River in Florida, most of the animals are crowded together in a one acre-area of the 60-acre bay known as Three Sisters Springs, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official.
For decades, hundreds of manatees have swum to the bay every winter to escape the Gulf of Mexico’s cold waters, according Ivan Vicente, a visitor services specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
But this year, the bay is believed to be seeing the largest number of manatees ever gathered together in recent history, Vicente told ABC News today. He added that an official state survey would confirm the 1,000 estimate this Saturday.
The Three Sisters Springs in particular are seeing an “overwhelming” number of manatees, Vicente said.
“The waters in this particular area appear to be the most ideal wintering habitat for manatees in Kings Bay,” he explained. “The water is just over 72 degrees, which is nice and warm for them. The water is shallow and the area is confined by beautiful trees that protect it from harsh winds.”
Visitors have been flocking to the Three Sisters Springs area to see and photograph the gentle giants snuggled together up close.
The manatees – which are on average 10 feet long and weigh 1,500 pounds – “can rest in these springs for weeks and weeks without food,” Vicente said. “Not having food isn’t a problem as long as the manatees can do so without too much disturbance from humans, so they can conserve their energy.”
However, manatees may sometimes “take a break from resting” and “get very, very close to people” since they’re “very curious creatures,” Vicente said.
But there’s no need worry if the animals do get close to visitors, as manatees are not known to be violent at all, he said.
“There has never been a recorded manatee-related emergency ever,” Vicente joked.
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