MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida boaters need to slow down immediately. November is Manatee Awareness Month and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reminding the public that these large marine mammals are on the move.

As temperatures drop, many of the state’s over 8,000 manatees will be migrating to warmer waters for the winter. During this time it is especially important for the public to be alert and look out for manatees while enjoying time on the water.

Manatee season runs through March 31.

Although manatees are quite large, they can be difficult to see from a boat as they often swim and rest just below the water’s surface.

To avoid hitting manatees, boaters need to keep their eyes open for manatee “footprints” or circular slicks on the surface of the water and follow all the posted speed limits. Polarized sunglasses also make it easier to spot manatees.

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With colder weather, a large population of manatees are usually found in or near the Lauderdale Power Plant cooling lakes off the South Fork New River and the Port Everglades Power Plant cooling canal.

As the air and water warms after a cold snap, the manatees move into surrounding canals and Intracoastal Waterway to forage, which increases the chances of being hit by a boat.

The gentle sea cows can’t tolerate water temperatures lower than 68 degrees so protecting their natural warm-water habitats is critically important.

At least 388 manatees have died in Florida this year, slightly more than average.

Boaters who see a sick, injured, or dead manatee are urged to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-FWCC (3922), text #FWC on a cell phone or email tip@myfwc.com.

There is also a free “I Spy a Manatee” mobile app which allows users to report sightings of manatees, the app provides maps of the County’s state-regulated manatee protection and boating safety zones, allowing boaters to immediately see what zone(s) they are traveling through by using the location services of the mobile device.

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