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When swimming with manatees, mind the herd

Endangered sea cows hang out in Florida’s Crystal River; tourists can visit conscientiously

By
6:00am, June 1, 2015
Manatee near Crystal River, Fla.

MAKE WAY  Tourists can visit sea cows in Crystal River, Fla., but they’ll need to mind their manatee manners.

The creature emerged from the murky depths of Florida’s Crystal River just a couple of feet below where I was floating. I froze and felt my eyes widen. I wanted to shout “manatee!” but knew that would scare the animal. And that was the last thing I wanted to do.

Before I even dipped a toe in the water, I had been drilled about the rules of passive observation. “You have to be really quiet,” said Yves Delpech of Sunshine River Tours. And don’t touch the manatees; “let them touch you,” he said. Manatees, it appears, are the introverts of the sea.

There are strict rules for interacting with the animals because the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is endangered, numbering just 6,000 or so (SN Online: 4/15/15). Boat speeds are restricted —&thinsp

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