Manatees seek escape from cold weather in Citrus County waters

King's Bay is a protected manatee refuge

CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. - Manatees, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, are flocking to the waters of King's Bay in Citrus County, in search of warmer aquatic environments.

Ivan Vicente, an official with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said due to cold temperatures Friday morning, they had to temporarily close a section of Jurassic Springs, where people are usually able to swim with manatees.

"This is a measure only taken when we need to reassure that these animals need to conserve energy, during periods of cold that are prolonged," Vicente said.

Just last week, wildlife officials had to temporarily close Three Sisters Springs to swimmers and kayakers, another popular spot to be up close to manatees.

If the manatees are not permitted to rest in the warm springs, Vicente said, they may have to travel through colder waters, which can be very dangerous for the creatures.

"Cold stress can lead to death," he said.

Officials will continue to monitor the warmer waterways of King's Bay, and temporarily close them as needed, based on the weather and the number of manatees in the area.

As of Friday, Vicente said it appeared likely they would be able to keep Three Sisters Springs open throughout the Manatee Festival, which takes place in Crystal River. The festival is scheduled to run Saturday, Jan. 18, through Sunday, Jan. 19.

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