Boaters urge caution after manatee found dead in Halls River

By Kim Leoffler, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, February 19, 2018, 6:36 PM EST

Some boaters in Citrus County are urging everyone on the water to be careful after a manatee was found dead in one of the rivers there earlier this month.

  • Manatee found in very shallow part of river
  • Speed rules in manatee zones not always followed
  • 14 manatee deaths from watercraft-related incidents in Florida in 2018 so far

Representatives with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission say a manatee was found dead in Halls River on February 8 after some sort of collision with a watercraft. 

"You have to be aware of all your surroundings at all times," Captain Gary Bartell Jr. of River Adventures Tours said.

Bartell said he's always on the lookout for manatees when he conducts any tours in the area.

"It's as simple as you turn your motor off, you drift, you wait for the manatee to pass," he explained.

The manatee was found in a very shallow part of the river. In that area, manatees only have a few feet to get out of the way if boats are coming through the area too quickly.

The area where the manatee was found is in a manatee zone, but Bartell said speed rules aren’t always followed.

"Nobody abides to those regulations because there's no enforcement back here -- there's no presence," he explained.

FWC representatives said they do have people out patrolling Halls River, along with other waterways in Citrus County, but stress they can't be everywhere at once.

That's why boaters say it's important people pay extra attention any time they're on the river since manatees are in the water there year round.

"When they're sleeping, laying on the bottom, they leave no footprint and you don't know they're there,” John Thurmond said.

They need their space. We are intruding on their space with motor boats," he added.

According to FWC records, there have been fourteen manatee deaths in the state of Florida from watercraft-related accidents so far this year.