Florida manatees range along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Florida to Texas. Little is known about manatee use areas and habitats west of the Suwannee River. Understanding manatee distribution and resource use and knowledge of shelter and forage resources for manatees and other species such as fish and sea turtles is necessary to effectively manage northern Gulf of Mexico coastal habitats. Manatee distribution and habitat are being assessed by multiple agencies and partners using aerial surveys, GPS, and radio tracking studies to determine local and regional movement and habitat use patterns. GPS telemetry records from radio-tagged manatees linked to a camera-based sampling system were used to detect and characterize seagrass beds. This methodology has proven to be sensitive to differences in seagrass abundance and species richness. Salinity and temperature loggers are deployed on tagged individuals to understand variations in timing and spatial extent of freshwater and warm-water resources.
Tagged manatees in the St. Marks River in northwestern Florida.