Port Mansfield, just north of Padre Island, has received a rare treat the past few years – a visit from a Florida Manatee!
These gentle creatures normally live in the warm waters of Florida and seldom venture to the Texas Gulf Coast. This Manatee is about 8 feet long and has been in Port Mansfield for about a month, playing and eating sea grasses.
Manatees live to be about 50 yrs and can get as large as 12 feet in length. Boats are the main threat to Manatees because of wounds from propellers. The problem is that there are too many boaters in the coastal waters that Manatee prefer. Loss of habitat, fragile sea grass being destroyed by boaters and water pollution are diminishing their numbers. Manatees are Federally protected and on the Endangered Species list.
US Fish & Wildlife officials will monitor the Manatee. They don’t want people feeding it or coming too close. “Our biggest concern is trying to keep the public from interfering with its movement, when Wildlife becomes dependent upon people, they quit being wild.”
The last Manatee to visit the Texas Coast was “Sweet Pea” who in 1995 made quite a splash at a water treatment plant in Houston. I was able to take my 2 boys to see her and we fondly remember her playing in the water. Sweet Pea had to be rescued when the temperatures got cold. Manatees get hypothermia in water below 68 degrees. “Mattress Mack” of Gallery Furniture volunteered one of his vans to help transport the Manatee to the cargo plane that flew her back to Florida.
Wildlife officers will also keep a close eye on the Port Mansfield Manatee when waters starting getting colder. We sure enjoy their visits but want them to be safe and go back to Florida when the Summer is over.