Manatees swim into spotlight at Wildlife Park

With cooling temperatures, wild manatees are seeking warmer spring waters and will be joining Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park’s resident manatees in the park’s first-magnitude spring. The water temperatures in the spring remain at 74 degrees year-round. On very cold mornings as many as 70 wild manatees can be seen congregating in the spring run.

The park is one of only a few places where you can see manatees up close and learn about them at the daily manatee programs (presented at 11:30am, 1:30pm, and at 3:30pm).

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park also serves as a sanctuary and rehabilitation center for these gentle marine mammals. The park’s program started in December 1983, when three manatees named Rosie, Beverly and Beauregard came to live at the park.

Through the years many manatees have found refuge and care here, and most have been successfully returned to the wild. For all these reasons, the park is celebrating manatees during the month of November.

Adopt-A-Manatee Day is November 25 at the park.

Adopt a Manatee Day at the Wildlife Park: Saturday, November 25

In addition to displays in the park’s Visitor Center on US 19 and in the Discovery Center, the park will be hosting the Save the Manatee Club for a special holiday Manatee Adoption event on Saturday, November 25, 2017.

The adoption event will be held in the Visitor Center.  By adopting a manatee, you will become a member of the Save the Manatee Club and will be helping this threatened species. Your adoption packet will include an adoption certificate for your adopted manatee, a color photo and biography.

As a member, you also receive The Manatee Zone newsletter with updates on your adopted manatee and Paddle Tales the club’s e-newsletter. Memberships fund manatee rescue, rehabilitation, and release efforts, education and public awareness projects and conservation work to protect manatees and their habitat.

The Resident Manatees

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is currently home to four female manatees: Ariel, Lorelei, Electra, and Betsy who can be seen year-round at the park.

Ariel was rescued Christmas Day 1973 at two weeks of age.

Ariel was just two weeks old when she was rescued along with her mother Amanda on Christmas Day 1973. They arrived together at Homosassa Springs on July 14, 1986. She is a regular at manatee education programs, lifting her head out of the water to “smile” at the visitors.

Lorelei was born on May 3, 1975 at Miami Seaquarium.

Lorelei has been living at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park since 1994. She was born on May 3, 1975 at Miami Seaquarium and arrived at Homosassa Springs on July 14, 1986. She is very gentle and is often seen resting with the other manatees. However, she also likes to “work out” on occasion – swimming from one end of the spring to the other.

Electra was born in the wild and rescued on December 13, 1998 after sustaining injuries which caused her to have difficulty swimming.

Electra was born in the wild and rescued on December 13, 1998 after sustaining injuries which caused her to have difficulty swimming. She came to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in May 2000. She is doing very well and has overcome any buoyancy problems she had.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park has just welcomed Betsy, the manatee, back home on October 17, 2017.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park has just welcomed Betsy, the manatee, back home on October 17, 2017. She was born at the park on October 19, 1990, and weighed from 60 to 70 pounds at birth. Amanda was her mother. Betsy was transferred in November 2010 to the Cincinnati Zoo for their manatee exhibit and has been there for seven years.

The Manatee Care Center

The park has recently received five rehabilitation manatees from Lowry Park Zoo. These manatees will be staying at the wildlife park while the manatee exhibit at Lowry Park Zoo is renovated. Two males, Newsom and Cayo; and three females, Gleewood, Marmalade, and Camlee have already arrived.

Toodles, another female manatee was brought to Homosassa Springs and returned to the wild from the park. She was originally rescued from the Homosassa River.

The Wildlife Park’s Manatee Care Center is a State-of-the Art facility with in-ground and above-ground pools for the care of manatees that are recovering from Red tide, cold stress or who have been treated for injuries and are on the mend.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park protects the headwaters of the Homosassa and Hall Rivers through protecting the Homosassa Springs. Manatees frequent the park.

Wild Manatees Welcomed

Each year the gates are lifted in the Long River Bridge on November 15th to allow wild manatees access to the main spring’s warm waters during the winter months. The gates stay open until March 31st. During the winter months, manatee programs are offered three times daily (11:30 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm) at the bleachers alongside the Manatee Care Center’s in-ground pool. The remainder of the year from April 1 through November 14, the programs take place alongside the main spring and Fish Bowl underwater observatory.

Celebration of Lights at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is an annual holiday event. All funds benefit the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park organization. Image courtesy of Joe Dube.

Celebration of Lights Dec. 19-26

In other news at the park, preparations are underway for the annual Celebration of Lights, a seven-evening event, featuring a synchronized light and music show by Sebastian Hawes. A variety of holiday entertainment is featured nightly, along with refreshments and more. A non-denominational Christmas Eve service will be offered by the Nature Coast Community Church on the evening of December 24, 2017. The Celebration of Lights will be held the evenings of December 19 through Christmas Eve and will reopen on December 26 for an After-Christmas Party. For more information on the Celebration of Lights, please call (352) 628-5343.

The Citrus Watercolor Club’s Fall Show is at the Park Nov. 18-19.

Fall Arts in the Wildlife Park Show Nov. 18-19

The Citrus Watercolor Society will be holding its annual Fall Arts in the Wildlife Park exhibit and sale in the Visitor Center, featuring the artwork of many talented local watercolorists. Originals, prints and cards will be available for purchase. The Citrus Watercolor Club donates 20% of sales from the show to the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park.

Friends’ Volunteers – The Wildlife Puppeteers who do Puppet plays her in the park and outside the park in schools, libraries and clubs. (L to R) Vicky Iozzia, Judy Hemer, Renate Wilms-Rovin and Bruce Mann. Photo by Susan Strawbridge

Wildlife Puppeteers Show Nov. 22

The Wildlife Puppeteers will be presenting their new puppet play, Night at the Wildlife Park, on Wednesday, November 22, 2017, starting at 2:00 pm in the Florida Room at the Visitor Center. This play is an imaginary story about what the animals at the Wildlife Park might do after the Park closes. Get ready to party, sing, and dance with the animals. You will also see animals who do not live at the Park! Watch your favorite animals, and enjoy! There is no charge to attend the play.

Monthly Bird Walk Nov. 25

A monthly bird walk is scheduled for Saturday, November 25. Novice and experienced birders are invited to take a guided bird walk on Pepper Creek Trail. Meet at 8:00 am by the flagpole just outside the entrance to the Visitor Center located on US 19. Experienced birders from Citrus County Audubon will lead birders on this walk. Bring binoculars and a field guide if you have them. This leisurely-paced walk is on a fully accessible (paved) trail that winds through a hydric hammock along Pepper Creek. Please call the park office Monday through to register (352) 628-5343.

We invite you to enjoy the season and come out and meet the park’s manatees and other wildlife, adopt a manatee, and join us for the Celebration of Lights.