SARASOTA, Fla. — A herd of about 16 manatees that gathered near South Lido Beach for mating has drawn a lot of attention from visitors.
"Manatees were always my mom’s favorite, and she passed seven years ago, so they’re very special to me," said Denise Paese, who is visiting from Wisconsin and saw the manatees in the water while walking down the beach.
Sarasota Police said it's fine to observe the mating manatees. Still, officers said some people have been going into the water near them and trying to touch the manatees, which is dangerous and illegal.
We spotted manatees mating near South Lido Beach Sunday. Folks were trying to touch them. Please don’t. @MoteMarineLab: If you see a manatee mating herd, observe respectfully from a distance. Do NOT touch. If you see a distressed/deceased manatee, call Mote’s hotline 888-345-2335 pic.twitter.com/UI5jMcNzrY— Sarasota Police Department (@SarasotaPD) August 7, 2022
Stephannie Kettle, a MOTE Marine spokesperson said with a record number of manatees deaths last year, people need to respect the threatened animals and let them mate in peace by staying out of the water near them.
"Pursuing a manatee and altering its behavior to where it’s trying to leave you is considered harassment, and it's illegal," said Kettle.
FWC said disturbing manatee mating herds, chasing manatees, feeding them, or doing anything to annoy the animal is considered harassment. A person could be fined up to $100,000 and face jail time if convicted.
If you see someone harassing a manatee, Kettle said to call the police or FWC officers.
Kettle said it's best to observe the animals from a distance.
"Stand right on the beach and watch from there. They get really close sometimes, and you’ll have a front row view of something really cool that happens in nature," said Kettle.
If you see a distressed/deceased manatee, call Mote’s 24 hr hotline for help at 888-345-2335.