It’s that time of year when manatees start to take ‘snowbird’ vacations and become South Floridians for the winter months.
Broward County’s Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department is usually the one keeping track of the comings and goings of the manatees in the county. But now there’s a mobile app for everyday citizens who spot a manatee to help the authorities keep track of them as well.
‘I Spy A Manatee’ lets people submit photos and enter locations of where they see a manatee, and the Environmental Protection department will be notified.
Every week during manatee season, which runs from Nov. 15 to March 31, the department counts manatees from a birds-eye view during helicopter flights.
“We cover about 100 miles, but there are so many finger canals [nearly 200 more miles] we could never cover everything,” said Patrick Quinn, Broward’s manatee coordinator and senior natural resource specialist.
“Using this app people could be out anywhere and provide a lot of data that we would not normally be able to capture during our surveys,” said Quinn.
Just on Tuesday, 385 manatees were counted in Broward’s waterways. Last week, only 74 were counted, Quinn said. But they can easily be missed if they’re swimming four to five feet under the water.
If more cold fronts move through the top of the state, Quinn expects Broward’s manatee count to rise to nearly 600 in the next couple of weeks.
Their favorite local spot to swim? This week’s survey found 285 manatees in the Florida Power & Light cooling lakes.
With the app, people can also search maps of Broward’s waterways to find manatee protection zones, safe boating zones, and yes, speed zones.
“Just because you don’t see a manatee, doesn’t mean there aren’t one - or a dozen - manatees in the water just beneath the surface, so just slow down…Don’t need to be in a hurry getting anywhere,” Quinn recommends.