Friday, November 12, 2010

(Wild) Life in South Florida - Manatees and Coco-tees

Recently I wrote that there are no rabbits in South Florida and how this pained me so much that when I visit my relatives up north and see a rabbit I nearly lose my mind with excitement. Well, I was set straight. Apparently we do have some rabbits here, called swamp rabbits and they live out in the Everglades where I don't go. I live east by the beach and I have never seen a rabbit here. This may also be due to the fact that I live on a barrier island and rabbits couldn't cross the Intracoastal or hop over drawbridges to get here. Who knows? I don't see a lot of wildlife, save for birds. We have cute burrow owls that remind me of cats. I also see an occasional fox and I've been lucky enough to watch a female loggerhead turtle lay her eggs on the beach. I think we may also get a raccoon or two here and there.

The one thing that I've always wanted to see is a manatee and I never have. I'm desperate to see a manatee. There aren't many of them anymore, which is why I guess I've never seen one, but most of the people I know have been fortunate enough to spot the slow-moving, brown lumps of sea cow in our canals. I must never be in the right place at the right time. 

I've been on a manatee spotting mission since we moved here twenty-one years ago. When I'm at my parents' house on the water I get up every single morning and go look outside to see if there are any floating around in the backyard. Every time I go on a boat ride I keep my eyes peeled for a head or a back surfacing in the wake, but nothing.


What I see instead is a creature more common, though less well known than the elusive manatee. Many people outside of South Florida have never heard of the manatee's non-endangered close relative the Coco-tee, which is often mistaken for the manatee.


Coco-tees are plentiful in South Florida waterways. One can spot large, thriving herds of them drifting in and out with the tides. I see coco-tees almost every day and without fail I always get really excited thinking my day has come and I am seeing a real manatee finally. Then, closer inspection reveals that nope, it's just another common coco-tee again, its brown bobbing husk perfectly imitating the color and shape of the real thing.


I'm not the only one fooled by the coco-tee, which if you haven't figured it out by now, is an old, rotten coconut that fell in the canal. I've seen boatloads of tourists rushing for cameras and binoculars just to get a closer look or a photo of a few coco-tees, only to be disappointed when they realize they've been duped. I know their pain.


I used to get to see real live manatees at EPCOT in the Living Seas, but the last time I went I found that the Living Seas had sadly been transformed into what can only be described as the Over-commercialized Cartoon Ad for Disney Movie Seas. They took all the real animals away and replaced them with holograms, animatronics and cartoons. I was extremely disappointed because that was the only place where I'd ever seen a live manatee. Of course I'd rather see one in its natural habitat instead of captivity, but it was better than nothing.


Years ago, it had been rumored that in the winter manatees gathered in the warm waters by a power plant at Port Everglades and that you could go there to see and feed them. I kept putting it off and not going and then 9/11 happened and access to the port was forever banned, leaving the manatees a now private hot tub in which to bathe away their winters. I don't know of any other exciting manatee meet-ups where I could go to see them. 


In the meantime I'll keep hoping. I'll get up every morning and look and I'll pay close attention when I'm on boats. After twenty-one years the odds have to be in my favor eventually. Those brown bumps can't all be coco-tees.


If anyone knows where I can see some real manatees, please let me know because I'll be there.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes manatees show up in the marina at the FAU SeaTech campus. Everytime there was a sighting, Ted would rush down there and see nothing. Well, manatees are not known for speed...I have to wonder what Ted defines as "rushing"---I imagine a leisurely stroll, plus a stop for a snack.

JG

Katrina said...

I live on the Indian River and we see them at our dock occasionally. We live near an inlet and the first time I went there and walked around there were about 30 of them. We also have a manatee center here in my little town which was at the exit of a power plant where the manatees hung out in the warm water. The power plant is long gone but the manatee center is still here. I have only lived in this city 2 years but I have seen dozens of manatees. Good luck!

Alex M said...

Sea World has them or Blue Springs has a whole festival!

http://themanateefestival.com/event-info.html

TwistedNoodle said...

Congrats again on your new baby girl! Will we ever get a glimpse of her on here, please? I can't wait to see her.

On another note.

I lived in Florida for a couple of years and our condo had a retaining pond with a fountain. We also had a one-eyed alligator that lived in the pond. He would climb up the hill and be right in my backyard all the time. Pets could not be left alone for any period of time on the lanai as the only protection was the screen.

One day I was on my lanai watching the gator sun himself when I saw the cutest little bunny hop by and then go towards the gator. I don't think rabbits see all that well. Anyways... the gator was faster than the bunny. I was devastated.

Our association kept paying some dude to come and get the gator but each time the gator would snatch the hunk of meat off the hook and take back off into the water. Finally they got him...along with 6 smaller ones that we never knew were there. We found out that they were getting in from the drainage canal bars when they were just wee babies. We also had river otters (at least that's what I think they were) that would frolic in the yard whenever they felt like it. They looked cute and all, yet if they saw you they'd make the meanest noise and looked like they were going to charge at you.

I like the wildlife that we have here up North much better.

Heather said...

This is not at all convenient to you, but it does have Manatees. Maybe when you are up all night with the baby and the only thing that quiets her is the sound of the car engine, you will find yourself pulling into Homulka Springs in the early dawn, and you will see giant sea cows and their babies. Please if you do go, be sure to preserve the epiphany you have created by long distance driving, sleep deprivation and manatee connectivity.
http://www.floridastateparks.org/manateesprings/

Ethan Shapiro said...

I spotted two on Thursday at Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club (http://dbycc.com). I also observed wood storks, peacocks, ospreys, cooper's hawks, various herons and egrets and an american crocodile. If you're in the area, stop by.

Last Minute Lyn said...

I often see manatees in the winter when I go to listen to the Jazz brunch. The Suntrust Jazz Brunch is on the first Sunday of the month on the new river near Las Olas.
I have also seen them in Titusville across from the shuttle launch..there is a fresh water pipe they hover around to drink.
I once thought a coco-tee was a loggerhead turtle coming up for air over a reef..got a lot of photos till we got closer and saw what it was.

aikin said...

lol @ Alex: "Sea World has them"

I live near Black's Point Marina and you can sometimes see them down there floating around.

Anonymous said...

I know you're far from the Treasure Coast, but you would definitely be able to see them in the St. Lucie River where the ocean and river meet.

Erica said...

Ah! I was sooo upset about the conversion of The Living Seas into "Finding Nemo's Fake Animal Extravaganza." That used to be one of my favorite places at Disney World, and when we went back many years later I was all excited to watch the fish and drink my Shirley Temple and relive my 5-year-old glory days. It was not to be....

Jenny J. @ Fondant is Gross said...

Manatee Springs campground is where I saw mine! They are beautiful! And the campground is beautiful too, I love all the decorations for Christmas they put up...

Ms. Marcia said...

No Manatees in Colorado ... sorry! When will we see a picture of Baby Lawns? We've all gone through this pregnancy with you ... we need to see the end product! Bless us all with a beautiful picture of you holding the babe! Thank you! Love your blog!

SuperBee said...

In Coral Gables, right off South Alhambra Circle... between US 1 and Nervia, almost at Nevia, there is a little lagoon dug out of the Gables Canal. Manatees used to gather there in swarms. :)

Here's the place from GoogleMaps.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=south+alhambra+coral+gables+fl&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=S+Alhambra+Cir,+Coral+Gables,+FL+33146&gl=us&ei=NBrfTPPfEsXflgexu8j_Aw&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CBQQ8gEwAA

Heather said...

Wait Anon! Where on the Treasure Coast? I have been to the Manatee Center in Ft Pierce a couple of times and never see any live manatees. Any tips on good spots? Heading down there in Feb. Thanks!

Hykuw said...

I was at Peanut Island last month and actually got yo swim with one! It swam a lot faster than I expected- the manatee came swimming towards me and I tried to follow but it was much too fast!
There's a power plant up in Rivera Beach that manatees like to hang out near, and you can still get close enough to see them. The boat tours on the intercoastal up here tend to have luck with manatee sightings.

Anonymous said...

Google "swim with manatees florida" and you get a bunch of places around Crystal River. e.g. http://www.sunshinerivertours.com/

randy said...

I live on Marco Island in S.W.,Fla.I see manatees quite often in the canal behind my house.I know there is another area on Marco that people go to to see manatees,and there are businesses that do manatee sightseeing for the tourists.I have a video on youtube of manatees that I took this summer.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBL6HBr4Km0

Please watch and enjoy,and comment if you like.

Melanie said...

When I read the title of your post, I imagined that coco-tees were t-shirts for fans of Conan O'Brien. After all, we HAVE been inundated with ads and promotions for his new show lately!

RV Vagabonds said...

Homosassa Springs Wildlife Center not only has rehabilitated manatees in their park, but if you wander the grounds you can see manatees in the Homosassa River outside the boundaries of the park on the walkways.

Anonymous said...

I live near St. Pete beach and was curious this summer when I noticed people were shrieking and running ashore because they saw a blob in the water. Of course, being the animal lover (freak) that I am, I chose to swim towards the blob to see what it was. I was thinking it was going to be a turtle. But, no! It was a manatee! In the gulf! Loved it! Went back same time next day and two were there. Swam near them to get a look for a bit, was fascinated. They were totally unfazed by the people, dodging around them within arm's reach. You must find some, they were so lovely and peaceful. I've also visited them at the Apollo Beach power plant, tons there in the winter.

Melissa A. said...

Last time I checked there were manatees at the Miami Seaquarium. That's not that far from you (only one county away I think).

JoeinVegas said...

Perhaps some of those brown lumps were the real thing, and you just didn't get close enough. But I guess that doesn't count if you didn't know it.

Melissa said...

I would love to see a manatee as well. However, in Wisconsin we don't exactly have them available for sighting. :)

Nanci said...

I live near the Indian River and have spotted a few. There is a canal in Satellite Beach and this past winter there were over 75 huddled together. In fact, there were so many some were getting stuck and they were causing such a spectale that FWC had to come in a rope off the area. I got some really good pictures. I'll let you know the next time they venture up this way.

Anonymous said...

I know this post is about Manatees, but I'm more upset that I learned the Living Seas at Epcot isn't what I remember it to be. Guess it's really been a long time since I've been there. Now I'm not sure I wanna go back, but being forewarned, at least I won't be as disappointed.

Anonymous said...

i swam and then later saw them procreating in north captiva. its close to sanibel but you need a boat to get there.

eleanorstrousers said...

Manatee Sanctuary Park in Cocoa Beach: http://bit.ly/aBNCyq . You can actually wade in the water and they are about four feet away. Amazing. I sat there all day.

imfortyish said...

Man could we have used you here in Beautiful, British Columbia! You could have rescued some of these poor babies!
http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/06/29/university-of-victoria-declares-war-against-feral-rabbits/

Lindsey said...

I've always wanted to see a manatee too!! I adopted on in high school when I was part of science club. Uh oh...did I just reveal my inner geekness? Anyway, when we were in Florida for our honeymoon...I was desperate watching out for manatees the whole time but never saw one.

booda baby said...

I'd be happy to look for a manatee, but after this post, I'm afraid the dictionary-picture in my mind will always be a coconut.

Melanie said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your beautiful family! Congratulations on the birth of your sweet baby!

Kristen said...

My brother went to JWU in Miami in 2005 and he always saw them over there. I saw one over by his dorm that May.

Hope you are enjoying your little girl!

Anonymous said...

I saw manatees in the marina of the South Seas resort which is all the way at the end of the main road on Captiva. If you ever get out there just drive in like you own a place there or say that you're checking in to the hotel. The restaurant next to the marina was pretty good. You can eat and manatee watch at the same time.

Fancy Schmancy said...

Down in the Keys, half way between Miami and Marathon, there used to be a restaurant that you could go out back and buy lettuce and go down the dock and feed them. I hear they still come up to the docks, but feeding them is highly illegal in Florida, now. I was lucky to have done it once, their whiskers tickled, they would eat right out of your hands. Such gentle giants.

Dee said...

Well, you are in the right part of the country to see all kinds of ocean wildlife. It is only a matter of time. There are always lots of Florida waterfront homes for sale for wildlife and outdoors lovers.

chasdavss said...

We always have a wonderful time going our with River Ventures in Crystal River. www.riverventures.com

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