Hundreds of manatees congregate in Florida refuge to escape chilly seas

A popular Florida wildlife refuge has been closed to swimmers, thanks to an influx of hundreds of manatees.

It’s estimated that as many has 400 manatees have crowded into the Three Sisters Springs, a refuge about 65 miles north of Tampa. About 1,000 manatees live in the Kings Bay and Crystal River ecosystem, of which Three Sisters Springs is a part. A large number of the marine mammals are wedged in a spring called Idiot’s Delight.

The manatee invasion has caused the closure of Three Sisters Springs throughout this week. A boardwalk in the refuge is open for visitors to see the manatees but swimmers and kayakers have been warned to stay away while the animals group together.

The manatee traffic jam has been caused by low temperatures that have driven the animals from their foraging in the Gulf of Mexico. Frosty conditions in Crystal River on Thursday morning, with further chilly weather expected next week, meant the manatee huddle could continue for several more days.

Last updated on 15 February 2016