CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. - Manatee seek the warmer waters of Florida's springs to escape the harsh cold air, but now their winter retreat may make them stars.
In an effort to help protect the manatee, members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission installed a camera at Three Sisters Springs so watching the manatee huddle can be as simple as a click of a computer mouse.
The slow-moving mammals don't appear to have many worries as they methodically swish their large tails to maneuver the inland waters, so a little more attention may not be a bad thing. FWC hopes this new strategy will encourage support but keep onlookers away in person from the protected areas.
The FWC receives complaints from the public about what is perceived to be an intrusion into the manatee sanctuary. "The FWC gets many complaints regarding manatee harassment," said Lt. Col. Bruce Buckson of the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement. "Now, officers and dispatch can check the live, online video if complaints come in regarding Three Sisters Springs."
Since the cold air can harm the manatee, FWC biologists will be able to use the video to enhance their assessments.
The camera is solar powered and operates from dawn to dusk. Only 30 can watch at a time. Visitors may have to install ActiveX controllers the first time the site is viewed. If the site is busy with the maximum visitors, then an error message appears until space opens up.
The site also allows viewers to grab a snapshot of the video.
To watch the manatee cam, visit http://manateecam.viewnetcam.com , and click on the "single" tab at the top of the page.
Three Sisters Springs is located off Kings Bay in Crystal River, Citrus County.
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