Cold weather brings manatees to power plant canal

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APOLLO BEACH, Fla. -  When temperatures drop outside, so do water temperatures, and that's what prompts scores of manatees to trek to a canal next to a power plant in Apollo Beach.

Every year, the sea cows congregate in the canal next to TECO's Big Bend Power Station. The canal water is usually 75-80 degrees, much warmer than neighboring Tampa Bay. The canal water outfalls from the power plant.

"They know where we are. It's kind of like a spa for them," said Jamie Woodlee with the Manatee Viewing Center.

On Tuesday, an estimated 200 manatees could be seen hanging out in the canal. According to Woodlee, that's the most anyone has seen there over the last year.

"They started coming in last night. You could tell they knew the temperature was going to drop. Instinctively, they know and head for warm water."

Cold water can cause stress for manatees and lead to death. 2013 was the deadliest year on record for manatees. Besides red tide and boat propellers, cold stress was a factor.

To view the manatees at the power plant, you can visit for free seven days a week from November 1st until April 15th. The hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

The address is: 6990 Dickman Road, Apollo Beach.