Help Feed the Manatees with Manatee Munchies during Manatee Awareness Month

By Diane Bedard Posted on November 9, 2022

November is Manatee Awareness Month, bringing to light the ongoing, multifaceted investigations of the unique mortality events of manatees. Thus far, 718 deceased manatees were discovered throughout the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts in 2022, spiking the rates to numbers last seen in 2018. Fortunately, manatee mortality rates are down from 2021.

Despite devastating statewide numbers, manatees continue to return in droves to Crystal River each year, with mortality rates dropping significantly in this area, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC).

Save Crystal River is a grass-roots nonprofit organization that has spent the last ten years rehabilitating the waters of Crystal River through removing harmful algae and debris and planting and protecting eelgrass, which is the primary food source for manatees.

Manatees are 800 to 1,000-pound herbivores that consume large percentages of their body weight in aquatic vegetation daily. The average manatee consumes over 100 lbs. of seagrass daily.

manatees crystal river
Manatees gather at Crystal River during the cold weather (Nov-March). Photo by Sally White

November is Manatee Awareness Month

November is Manatee Awareness Month, dedicated annually to manatees and their conservation in Florida. Bob Graham, a former Governor of Florida, first declared November as Manatee Awareness Month in 1979, when manatee protection zones were first designated in areas where manatees gather during the winter.

November is typically when manatees return to Florida’s warmer waters from their summer migratory routes.

In honor of Manatee Awareness Month, and to continue to support the thriving conditions in Crystal River, Save Crystal River has created some unique opportunities for people to make a direct difference in changing the future.

Manatee Munchies Program

manatee munchies

Save Crystal River has created Manatee Munchies Lunchboxes to feed the manatees during Manatee Awareness Month! When people purchase one of these delectable donations, such as a Sea Cow Snack for $25, a Manatee Munchie Lunchie for $50, or The Hungry Man-atee Meal for $100, all donations will go toward restoring, protecting, and saving Crystal River. Donations of any monetary amount may always be made here.

Manatee Munchies are gathered without disrupting the planted eelgrass in Crystal River. This is because eelgrass sheds its leaves seasonally, like deciduous trees do.

Boat propellers can also “cut” the grass when their blades are not properly raised. These cuttings can be collected as well to feed manatees. To gather the shed eelgrass leaves, a surface skimmer traverses the waters of Crystal River and collects the grasses to repurpose in feeding manatees.

The shed grass “clippings” are sent to rehabilitation facilities to provide a natural food source to manatees in captivity. This makes it easier for rehabilitated manatees to reacclimate when they return to the wild, increasing their odds of survival.

In addition, seagrass plants that are accidentally unearthed from the roots are collected and used in education programs for schools. This teaches future generations about the valuable role seagrass and eelgrass play in the environmental continuum.

manatee munchies
Manatee munching on the rich eelgrass beds in Crystal River by Taylor at Hunter Springs Kayaks.

Manatee Munchie Lunchboxes and Manatee Fever are programs where every dollar and person can make a difference! We want to expand on the success of the current project so we may restore all 600 acres of Kings Bay and Crystal River for generations to come,” said Lisa Moore, president of Save Crystal River.

Create Your Own Manatee

Another way to fund these important environmental programs includes being a part of the history of Crystal River. Manatee Fever is an art movement created by Save Crystal River, where consumers may take part in water rehabilitation and manatee feeding efforts, by creating their very own custom-designed art sculpture manatee.

Manatee statues that are located around Crystal River as part of the Manatee Fever movement include Elvis, Fat Boy, Faye, and Pete. Images courtesy of Save Crystal River.

Corporations, private donors, or individuals may sponsor a manatee sculpture, which stands over five feet tall, then select an artist to paint it and take part in the design inspiration process. All designs must be approved by the Save Crystal River Board of Directors.

The personalized, unique masterpieces include the buyer or company’s own style and signature.

These exclusive figures are displayed around the City of Crystal River, or at a location selected by the sponsor. The commemorative manatee art sculptures are offered for a limited time. A map of all manatee art sculptures will be created for the 100th anniversary of Crystal River in July 2023.

All proceeds from the art installations are used to restore and protect the beauty and health of Crystal River for generations to come. To learn more about the program and to become a sponsor, please inquire via email to [email protected].

About Save Crystal River

In 2012 Save Crystal River was formed by a group of leaders in Crystal River, Florida, known as the “Home of the Manatees.” The organizers noticed the damage that elements and pollution were doing to the waterways and committed to restore and protect the beauty and health of Crystal River and Florida’s waterways for future generations.

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With support from government leaders and community donations, and in partnership with aquatic restoration specialists Sea & Shoreline, suffocating Lyngbya is vacuumed out and eelgrass is planted and nurtured. Now, shedding grasses are collected to feed manatees in captivity.

Save Crystal River is on-track to restore 92 acres of Kings Bay by July 2023, which is the Centennial Anniversary of the City of Crystal River!

With over 70 acres of the river rehabilitated and 808 spring vents unclogged, the efforts and success are visible in the clarity of the water, the number of manatees returning ‘home’ every season and the increase in opportunities for anglers and tourism. To support the continuation of this 600-acre project, rehabilitating Florida’s waterways, and Saving Crystal River, please visit savecrystalriver.com

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