10/04/2013 09:54 am ET Updated Oct 06, 2013

Manatee Stampede Caught In Fascinating Time-Lapse Video

Cooler temperatures will soon send hundreds of manatees to Florida springs, where the adorable sea cows huddle up, rest, and keep warm during winter months.

Their arrival is also a linchpin of the state's tourism; on weekends King Spring sanctuary sees up to 500 swimmers a day, hoping for a close encounter with an endangered manatee.

It is illegal to harness (i.e. touch) a manatee in Florida, and sanctuaries limit the number of visitors in the manatee area at one time and oversee visitors' interaction with them. Yet the manatees are far from left alone.

At Three Sisters Springs, a study revealed camera flashes spooking resting sea cows, a guide even pushing a manatee towards visitors so that they could touch it, and a swimmer sitting on a resting manatee's head to pose for a picture.

And in a recently posted time-lapse video by conservation photographer Cristina Mittermeier from the April edition of National Geographic Magazine (posted above), the extent of humans' interaction with the resting manatees is fully realized.

Watch at second 00:20 when the mass of manatees bolts from their cozy huddle. The apparent loud noise that caused the stampede happens several times a day, according to Mittermeier.


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