Manatee and Natural Predators
The manatee is lucky because it has very few natural predators to worry about. Of course the ones on that list are very powerful so they may not have much of a chance of surviving if one decides they look quite tasty. Their natural predators include sharks, crocodiles, and alligators.
Many young manatees lose their lives in the first few years to these types of predators in the water. The mothers are extremely defensive of their young, but they don’t have much to fight with. They can sometimes get in a few hits with their tails. Since they can’t turn their heads without turning their bodies, they don’t have the speed either that they need to defend themselves. The teeth of a manatee are very faint so they don’t help with defense from predators either.
As a result of this, the mother may find herself injured or killed in an effort to protect her calf. The downside to this is that the calf will likely not be able to survive on its own so it too will die.
Here is a break down of the types of predators that the manatee can be concerned with based upon location:
West Indian Manatees – sharks, alligators, and crocodiles
West African Manatees – sharks and crocodiles
Amazonian Manatees – jaguars and sharks
The cold waters are a very serious threat to the manatee. They many accidentally move from a warm area of water to a colder one. Their bodies aren’t designed to be able to handle the cold temperatures. As a result everything can shut down and they will die in a short period of time. Young manatees are the most susceptible to this because they tend to be more curious than older ones.
Those manatees that are injured in some way are also at risk. If they aren’t healthy enough to migrate for the winter they will remain where they are. That body of water is going to become too cold for them to survive in as the colder weather begins to set in for the winter months. Their bodies will shut down if the water is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also very susceptible to bacteria and parasites which can be a cause of death for them.
Man is the biggest threat though to the manatee and that is the reason why they are on the brink of extinction. Hunting used to be a huge problem for the manatee but that has dropped significantly due to the conservation efforts around them. The biggest concern is the number of boats in the waters where the manatees live. They continue to be hit, injured, and killed all the time by these boating accidents. The fact that we have larger and more powerful boats than in the past is part of the concern as well.
It isn’t like these boaters are going out of their way to harm them most of the time though. The manatee has dark colors so they are hard to see from the surface of the water until it is too late. It is estimated that at least 25% of the manatees that die each year in Florida are boat related.
Fishing nets and other types of devices are a huge problem for manatees as well. They can become tangled in fishing nets and as a result drown or be severely injured. Fishing line in the water can get tangled up around their flippers and make it impossible for them to move. If they swallow plastic bags or fishing lines that are in the water it can block their intestines as well.