On July 29, alongside a video showing a group of roughly a dozen large sea cows lumped atop one another near a shoreline set to the tune of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office wrote on Facebook asking people to give a little privacy to herds of manatees actively knocking flippers.
"We get calls all the time from citizens when they see this, believing the manatees are in distress," the sheriff's office wrote. "We can assure you they are more than fine."
Although Florida's beloved manatees get it on year-round, mating herds are most commonly seen during the steamy summer months. In shallower waters, the effect can be "quite dramatic" with "churning waters and flailing flukes and flippers," notes the nonprofit group Save the Manatee Club.
"The activity can attract onlookers who are either curious about the commotion or concerned that the manatees in the estrous herd are injured, stranded, or in distress," the nonprofit says on its website. "This is natural behavior."
Do not be alarmed if you see "churning waters" or "flailing flukes and flippers," the nonprofit group advises.
mass die-off in 2021 and, despite fatalities slowing, has struggled to recover.
In 2021, more than 1,100 manatees perished, marking the highest Florida death toll recorded in a single year. The die-off was deemed an "unusual mortality event," a rare designation that demands immediate attention under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. In 2022, the annual death toll was estimated to have decreased to around 800. This year, nearly 400 manatees have died so far.
On social media, the sheriff's office reminded people that touching or disturbing the large manatees is illegal and potentially dangerous. Interfering with the mating herds could disrupt their natural behavior and jeopardize the reproductive cycle. While known for their docile nature, the 1,000-pound creatures could also hurt someone who dares to venture into the frothy mating waters.
"They are very focused on mating with the female. The danger is if they start rolling and getting active. They may roll on top of you. They are obviously grabbing onto anything they can," warned Andy Garrett, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's manatee rescue coordinator.
When a female manatee is in estrus, she is typically surrounded by a group of males who squirm around and shove each other while vying for prime mating position, often in the shallows.
Florida manatees' gestation period is roughly one year. Mother manatees rear calves for one to two years, showing them travel routes and feeding spots before the youth set off on their own.
Save the Manatee says that if you stumble across a manatee mating herd, do not approach or touch them, but watch from a respectful distance. (You know, the Golden Rule.)
If you see someone bothering a mating herd of manatees, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission asks that you call 888-404-FWCC (3922) or your local wildlife agency.