My Flickr Photos of Springs

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Big Mermaids

Published October 14, 2007
Florida's manatees may not have fairy-tale looks, but swimming with them stirs passion for their survival

When winter comes, thousands of West Indian manatees head for the Sunshine State, often swimming up rivers to lounge around warm springs with a small number of permanent residents. They lack the insulation of other marine mammals, and when ocean temperatures drop they can perish from hypothermia if they don't escape the chilly water.

Seventy-five miles north of the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area is the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, an 80-acre site, accessible only by boat, that is winter home to about 15 percent of Florida's manatees. Visitors to the refuge are allowed to swim with the creatures, and "limited animal-initiated contact" is permitted.

Article links to this video:
Florida's endangered manatees have an itch to scratch -- and in the warm springs of Crystal River, Fla., they'll come right up to humans for assistance. Chronicle Travel Editor John Flinn goes swimming -- and scratching -- with the manatees on this underwater tour.

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