Crystal River Manatee sanctuary extended due to cold gulf - WFLA News Channel 8

Crystal River Manatee sanctuary extended due to cold gulf temperatures

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It's a nice warm day in Crystal River. Boaters and kayakers make their way to the warm water of Three Sisters Springs. And they have company. Manatees are still huddled together here while they wait for the Gulf of Mexico to warm up.

Michael Lusk is a refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Crystal River. He says, it's hovering in the high fifties low sixties something like that and generally manatees don't really feel comfortable unless it's sixty-eight or above."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been pulling the sanctuary buoys out of the river in some spots. But the sanctuary near Three Sisters Spring will be off limits for at least another week.

"We do have the authority to extend the time that the sanctuaries are in place if necessary."

Lusk says despite the cold water temperatures now, the manatees did see some relief from the warm winter.

"I would say no doubt. The manatees fared much better this year than they have the last two years."

But he also says there is a new problem associated with the delay of the mammals heading for the gulf.

"Now we have manatees using Three Sisters as a refuge and at the same time we have people who want to use it as a swimming pool and that's a problem because if those people go in there and disturb those manatees that is a violation of federal law."

Lusk says that most of the visitors understand the rules and don't violate them. But others have to be reminded or face a 75 dollar fine if they continue to bother the mammals.

The cold gulf water is not the only danger manatees have recently faced. Three manatees suffering from exposure to red tide near Sarasota were transported from Tampa to Homosassa.

The park manager at Homosassa Springs State Park says that the manatees that were brought in last month are doing quite well but they won't be released back to the wild where they were rescued from until the red tide there completely dissipates.

The manatees are living in the main spring at the park. The park manager says they might get more of the mammals soon because of overcrowding at another facility.

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