Manatee

Homosassa Springs was just a spot on the map about the distance and direction we wanted to travel in a day. A bit of checking on the magic internet showed Turtle River RV ‘Resort’ was just a half mile from the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where one could see Manatees up close and personal. Sure enough, it’s just down the road and we paid a visit today. It’s run by the State of Florida Parks Department and is very well done with raised walkways through the forest and surrounding pools fed by the Homasassa Springs.

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On exhibit are all species native to Florida with the exception of the Lu the Hippo. We saw many of the birds we had become so familiar with in Pine Island plus our first Roseate Spoonbill and Flamingos. Today, Flamingos are found only in preserves (no, not jam), not in the wild unless they’re plastic on wire legs (a much shorter species).

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Lu The Hippo was born in 1960 at the San Diego Zoo, did time in the movies and TV, and was put out to pool in Homosassa Springs in 1964. Been here ever since living the Florida retirement life. When the state took over the park, it was decided that only native animals would be retained, but there were no takers for Lu. The citizens of Homosassa Springs petitioned the state to make an exception for Lu. They were so successful, the Governor actually made him an honorary citizen of Florida!

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We saw a very good Park Ranger wildlife presentation on snakes and opossum with live demos. The opossum had been found in a garbage can at a very young age, and at one year, is very tame, and the star of the show.

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Saving the best till last, we attended the Manatee talk poolside at the source of the one of the Homosassa Springs. They are very strange mammals. Large, curious, non-threatening, vegetarian, and not pretty. The Ranger waded into the water with his bucket of veggie treats, splashed the water and manatee came at him from all directions at full-speed (about the speed of a human with a walker). They affectionately nudged him for attention and their treats, not unlike kids of the human species.

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At the very end of the pool, at the mouth of the spring, is an underwater observation area where we saw some of the fish we had been trying to catch on Pine Island. When the park had been in private hands, this observatory was known as the fishbowl, and the road the park is on is still named Fishbowl.

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