Florida beachgoers received a rare and pleasant surprise Sunday, when a small pod of very large manatees entered the surf zone and mingled with swimmers for about 30 minutes. In the video below, you can watch the docile critters come so close to shore that even a few young kids were able to pet them.
Craig Hossack, who was spending the day at the beach in Fort Lauderdale with his wife Gina, captured the estimated five or six animals on film as they swam about the knee-deep water. Craig commented to MSNBC that during his seven years living in Florida it was the first time he had sighted manatees outside of the aquarium. Yet even a visit to the aquarium wouldn’t put you as close to large sea creatures as Hossack and the rest of the crowd who encountered the animals, which were identified as West Indian manatees.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, West Indian manatees are native to the waters of Florida. They typically grow to an average of 10 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds but sometimes grow as large as 13 feet and 3,500 pounds. Still, sighting manatees in Florida can be rare, as they are considered an endangered species.
It is believed that this particular group of manatees was driven close to shore due to four or five of the males vying for the attention of a female. Whatever the case, it’s good to see the species thriving while also bringing about a memorable day at the beach.