Mounds of writhing sea creatures are piling up on Florida beaches, and authorities are warning concerned beachgoers to avoid the embarrassment of calling 911.
It’s likely a herd of manatees, and they are engaging in very public group sex, experts say.
“Don’t call us. …. We can assure you they are more than fine,” the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post.
“Manatees actually mate in herds like these and often they are near the shore. They mate all throughout the year, but generally mating herds like these are seen in the summer months. So if you see this, there’s no need to call.”
Concern is understandable, because the manatees appear to be in distress, like beached whales, including a lot of flopping and splashing around.
However, anyone attempting to push them back in the water will be charged with manatee harassment, officials say. (Manatees have special protections as a federally threatened species.)
“In shallower waters, the effect (of their mating) can be quite dramatic with churning waters and flailing flukes and flippers,” Save The Manatee reports.
“The activity can attract onlookers who are either curious about the commotion or concerned that the manatees in the estrous herd are injured, stranded, or in distress. … Any disturbances to the mating herd may disrupt this natural behavior and jeopardize the reproductive cycle.”
Interfering can also be dangerous for the manatees and humans. Manatees can grow to more than 13 feet in length and 3,500 pounds, and might roll on top of people standing too close, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says.
In April, a 38-year-old manatee died at Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium and an investigation revealed the cause was a “rip in his colon caused by a sexual encounter,” the Bradenton Herald reported.
Pinellas County is just west of Tampa, on Florida’s Gulf Coast.