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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
1502 Southeast Kings Bay Drive
Crystal River, Florida 34429
Voice: 352-563-2088

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of several islands, totaling approximately 46 acres. they are surrounded by the crystal clear, spring-fed waters of Kings Bay.

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is oriented toward preservation and protection of the West Indian Manatee and its habitat. During the winter when manatees concentrate, certain areas in Kings Bay are designated, "Manatee Sanctuary Areas." These sanctuaries provide places for manatees to rest and feed undisturbed in the warmth of the springs.

The refuge also aids in preserving Florida's most significant naturally occurring warm water haven for the manatee and provides critical habitat for approximately twenty percent of the nation's manatee populations. Six hundred million gallons of fresh water flow daily from more than thirty natural springs. the temperature of the water flowing from the springs remains a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Manatees, like people, are susceptible to cold and hypothermia and cannot survive for extended periods when water temperatures fall below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. These warm water springs are essential for manatee survival.

This gentle giant is endangered largely because of alteration and destruction of coastal habitats by man. Refuge islands and surrounding waters provide excellent habitat for a large number and variety of wildlife species. Some of the more common bird species you may see adjacent to the refuge are herons, egrets, ospreys, laughing gulls, cormorants, anhigas, white ibis and occasional bald eagle. Fish are also abundant. Mullet, largemouth bass, alligator gars, mangrove snappers, jack crevalle, sheepshead and tarpon are seen frequently in the water. It is this natural abundance and concentration of wildlife that has captured the imagination, respect and scientific interest of people throughout the world, and has made the Crystal River area internationally famous.

The best time to see the manatees is November-February. The weather is at its coolest and manatees are the most concentrated around the warm water springs they depend on for their survival. manatees are not commonly seen during the warmer months.

Protecting Manatees Information To Live By:

By swimming, boating, or diving in Florida's inland waterways, you may be endangering the life of the West Indian Manatee which is protected by federal and state laws. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered species Act of 1973 make it illegal to harass, capture or kill any marine mammal-including the manatee. In addition, the Florida Manatee Sanctuary act states:

"Its is unlawful for any person, at any time, by any means, intentionally or negligently, to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb any manatee."

Manatees can be observed and water related activities can be accomplished without violating the provisions of these three acts. the following guidelines are designed to help you better understand these regulations and explain how you can have a memorable experience while protecting the manatees.

  1. Do not enter designated/posted sanctuaries for any reason!
  2. Operate boat a idle/no wake speed when in areas known to have manatees present or when observations indicate manatees might be present. Note: Observations which indicate manatees might be present in the area include: observing a swirl at the surface of the water, observing the back sticking out of the water and /or observing the snout out an animal or hearing the animal exhale when it surfaces.
  3. Avoid harassing manatees. harassment is defined as any activity which alters the animal's natural behavioral characteristics; including:

Approaching a manatee before the animal first approaches you.
Actively pursuing/chasing (swimming after) or cornering a manatee while swimming or diving.
Poking, probing, stabbing a manatee at any time with any object. This includes but is not limited to a person's hand
Any activity which would separate a cow from her calf or an individual from a group.
Any attempt to snag, hook, hold, grab, pinch, or ride a manatee.
Any attempt to feed a manatee.
Touching or disturbing a resting manatee.

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