The Cape Coral area in southwest Florida is the home of the largest population of manatees in Florida, particularly in the winter when they move into the rivers and canals to feed and stay warm. This is primarily November through April.
Canal systems, in Cape Coral originally dredged to create land for homes, have become de-facto transportation systems linking residential boat docks to the inter costal waterway (ICW) and to deeper water in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Naturally occurring deeper channels, dredged waterways, and canal systems are also preferred by manatees as migratory routes and travel corridors to feeding areas and, in the case of residential canal systems, as “safe havens” and important sources of freshwater discharge.
The Florida manatees have lived in the state’s waters for about 12,000 years, while their ancestors were here for over one and a half million years. Manatees are a federally listed endangered species and are protected by the State of Florida.
Half a manatee's day is spent sleeping in the water, surfacing for air regularly at intervals no greater than 20 minutes. Manatees spend most of the rest of the time grazing in shallow waters at depths of 1–2 metres (3.3–6.6 ft). The Florida subspecies (T. m. latirostris) has been known to live up to 60 years.
On average, manatees swim at about 5 to 8 kilometres per hour (3.1 to 5.0 mph). However, they have been known to swim at up to 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph) in short bursts.
Manatee's will enter the Bimini canal in late afternoon en mass when temperatures in the gulf drop and they will depart the following day to feed in the gulf waters, and then return to overnight in the warmer canal water. Generally you will observe Manatees in the morning traveling towards the open water of Redfish cove and in late afternoon they will traveling north towards the Bimin basin.