An intimate moment among a group of manatees led to a standstill with traffic in Tampa on Tuesday.
WFTS reports that dozens of people exited their cars to view the “manatee mating ball,” which is when at least seven male manatees are competing for the attention of a single female, with the end goal being to push her into shallow water in order to mate. The act is a rare sight, with WFTS adding that it only can be seen every three to five years.
“The easiest way to identify a mating herd is when there are groups, a large number of manatees that look to be frolicking with each other in shallow waters, generally climbing on top of each other,” Kane Rigney, a manatee biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a video from May. “There will be up to 20 to 25 manatees in some circumstances with a single focal female, and there will be a lot of splashing, a lot of physical interaction with the manatees, kind of like a big bait-ball of fish, but you’ll see the manatees up on shore, rolling on top of each other and climbing.”
Rigney added that manatee mating season begins as early as March, but can take place through the summer and into October and November.
“We generally ask the public to stay away from mating herds — we like to allow that natural process to take place,” he said in the video. “Any interruption to that process can be considered harassment — but not only for manatee safety, but also for human safety. A lot of these manatees that you will see are thousand-pound animals, and at any time, those animals can change their behavior and roll onto a human causing very serious injury.”