It's manatee mating season

Two local boaters thought they saw a whale, but ...

As Denny and Carol Sipe were boating in the Gulf, between Tigertail Beach and Hideaway Beach, they spotted what they thought was a whale.

Male manatees gather around a female manatee in nature's age-old mating process.

Photo courtesy of Denny and Carol Siple

Male manatees gather around a female manatee in nature's age-old mating process.

“At first I thought it was a big whale sitting in shallow water, and there was a lot of trashing,” Denny Sipe said. “I thought it had beached itself.”

They drove the boat within 50 yards and he got out.

“I got within 15 feet and saw multiple manatees of different sizes. ... They were clinging onto a huge female.”

The Sipes soon realized what was happening. It’s mating time for the manatees.

“Manatees mate in herds, with one female being the focal point,” explains Denise Boyd, marine research associate with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The males “can number up to a dozen. In some cases the female will attempt to beach herself to stop the process.”

After about 30 minutes, the manatees that the Sipes were watching began moving out into deeper water. “They kind of broke up and started moving in a neat line,” Denny Sipe said.

Mating can go for a day, or several days.

“It takes about 12 months for a birth,” Boyd said. “It usually is one calf, weighing about 150 pounds, but there have been documented cases of twins.”

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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