APOLLO BEACH, Fla. — Hundreds of manatees are currently searching for warmer water. We found clusters of them outside TECO's Big Bend Power Plant in Apollo Beach.
Big Bend's discharge canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary that provides manatees protection from the cold, according to Tampa Electric.
"The manatees were really close to the dock which was great!," said Jillian Shea, Connecticut resident.
Officials with Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center say they are seeing about 4,000 visitors a day.
Wildlife officials say when Tampa Bay reaches 68 degrees or colder, manatees must find warmer water.
"They come into the warm water discharge canal. We bring in cold water from the other side of the plant using it to cool the plant down," said Jamie Woodlee, Senior Environmental Specialist.
As temperatures drop, more and more manatees will gather and visitors bundled up to check out the sight.
Prolonged exposure to lower water temperatures causes manatees to lose body heat and inadequately digest their food, which can lead to a condition called "cold stress," according to FWC.
January and February are the busiest months at the Manatee Viewing Center.