Large populations of manatees are trying to stay warm and enjoy Florida’s winter, but their presence is causing local springs to close to swimmers temporarily.
At Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, swimmers and kayakers are allowed to visit year-round and see manatees firsthand, but the springs are closed during high and low tides to ensure manatee safety.
Brady Wooten, general manager of River Ventures and secretary of the Manatee Ecotourism Association, said that the manatees and humans share access points at the spring, which can pose a problem when manatees need to enter or leave the spring.
“Whenever the manatees need to come into the springs for their survival, they don’t want humans in the way, and then when they want to leave along with the tides, they don’t want humans in the way as well,” Wooten said. “So we’ll close it whenever the manatees need to use it for their safety.”
According to Wooten, Crystal River has experienced visits from over 1,000 manatees in the last couple weeks. The large numbers could be explained by a combination of high tides and cold weather causing manatees to pack together for warmth.
Three Sisters Springs will be closed until the tide changes. Once humans are no longer in the way of entering and exiting manatees, the spring will reopen.