Snappin' Critters

Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park

Now here is where you'll find plenty of fish as well as one of the rarest and most endangered of animals, the West Indian manatee. My book, Manatees, Our Vanishing Mermaids, which is sold here, will fill you in on the life history of this remarkable animal. The manatees at Homosassa are being rehabilitated for possible release back into the wild. That means there is a good manatee population here year-round, not seasonally as elsewhere.

This is the only spot where you can view the animals under water as well as from the top. The manatees congregate near the glass-walled underwater observatory at the main spring during and after scheduled shows/feeding periods.

If you miss the scheduled shows, look for the manatees gorging on romaine lettuce at the bridge that spans the spring run. Sometimes all you can see are a few raised nostrils among the floating salad. Eventually, more of the body floats amid the lettuce. It's a peculiar shape: like a stuffed sausage with a beaver tail.

Christopher Columbus sighted a manatee on his first trip to the New World and mistook it for a mermaid. Considering a manatee's facial features (jowls, whiskers, and a large flat nose), Columbus and his crew obviously had been at sea too long. There ain't nothin' sexy about a manatee. . . except to another manatee.

Photographic opportunities are not limited to manatees. In winter, big schools of jack crevalle, snapper, snook, and other saltwater species swim in from the Gulf of Mexico to take advantage of the warmer, 72-degree spring water. Many kinds of birds, including owls and hawks, reside at the Homosassa Wildlife Park throughout the year. Alligators are also present year-round.

For complete information, call the park at (352) 628-2311. The park is located off US 19 in the town of Homosassa Springs, about two hours north of Tampa.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.


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