Manatees Staying Warm
CHRIS ZUPPA | Times
Officials with the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday morning instituted an emergency closure of Three Sisters Springs in order to safeguard the approximately 300 manatees that had packed into the canal that leads to the springs. The closure will remain in effect until at least midday Wednesday -- possibly longer -- in order to "keep them undisturbed for as long as possible during this cold spell,'' said Ivan Vicente, visitor services specialist for the agency. An aerial survey of manatees in the area is slated for Wednesday, and Vicente predicted a possible record number due to the cold weather. The old record is 567 in Citrus County waters. Vicente also said that he measured the outside air temperature at the Springs at 25 degrees at sunrise. During times of cold weather, Manatees take haven into the springs, in which the waters run about 72 degrees throughout the year. In addition to Three Sisters Springs, the cold weather also sent hundreds of manatees flocking to the discharge canal of the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach. The manatees started showing up Monday afternoon, according to TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 200 had gathered where warm water pours from the plant into Tampa Bay.