SARASOTA, Fla. — Manatee mating season is currently underway, and it’s not uncommon to see the animals during the process.

“It kind of looks like a mess in the water. It looks like animals in distress however it’s quite natural,” said Lauren Brandkamp with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

“They’re incredible animals, so I completely understand the desire to want to be close to them and feel connected and just see something incredible in nature,” Brandkamp added.

That’s exactly what you should do if you come across a manatee, watch them—but do not touch.

Sarasota police posted pictures of manatees mating near South Lido Beach on Sunday afternoon. They said quite a few people attempted to touch them.

“We want to make sure that we’re not trying to push animals off, trying to pet or harass or swim with them. The females are stressed,” police said.

Brandkamp told 8 On Your Side these animals are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“They are currently undergoing an unusual mortality event here in Florida, so it’s really important we make sure these animals are protected and able to mate and reproduce,” Brandkamp said.

Although people can cause harm to manatees, they don’t hurt humans.

“They are very very muscular. They have a paddle that is extremely powerful and if they become powerful or they swim away quickly, that paddle can be like a giant bat coming down on you,” Brandkamp said.

So again, allow nature to take its course.