Fort Lauderdale beach-goers were treated to an unexpected and pleasant surprise Sunday when a group of manatees joined a crowd of swimmers enjoying the shallow surf.
The surprising encounter was captured on video by 38 year-old Craig Hossack shortly after he and his wife Gina set up camp on the beach for a day in the Florida sun.
In an interview with the Sun Sentinel Monday, Mr. Hossack said he noticed shadows in the water and initially though it was just seaweed.
"But then they stuck their snouts out of the water and I was like, no way!," said Hossack. At first impression Hossack said it seemed to him the manatees were in a "mating mode." However, after a closer look at the video, the Sun Sentinel suggested the group was "a mother and four or five calves competing for suckling privileges."
Lifeguards worked hard to keep the area clear, although it didn't take long before the frolicking sea cows drew the attention of nearby swimmers and attracted a crowd of curious onlookers gathering around to witness the rare event.
Gina Hossack told the press: "It was not only a miracle, it was a gift. It made us feel amazing that we were able to witnesses such a thing, who gets to see something like that?"
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
A West Indian Manatee, a member of Order Sirenia in Florida waters.
West Indian manatees, sometimes known as sea cows are very familiar and widely loved by many Florida natives. These "Gentle Giants" feed on sea grass and populate Florida's rivers, estuaries, and (not affected by changes in water salinity) can also be found along coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
The average length of a typical Florida manatee runs around 10 feet and many can weigh close to 1,200 pounds. However, there are some reports of full-grown manatees reaching 12-13 feet in length and tipping the scales at nearly 3,500 pounds.
Female manatees tend to be larger than their male counterparts and typically breed once every two years producing one calf after a 12 month gestation period. Calves generally weigh around 60 pounds and average approximately 4 feet from snout to tail.
In captivity, manatees have been known to live for over 50 years, although being slow-moving and curious in nature, in the wild they are often victims of propeller strikes from unaware boaters which leads to many an untimely death.