Large, roly-poly mammals are common sights on South Florida beaches, but on Monday afternoon a group of them weren't of the human variety.
Seven manatees beached themselves before a crowd of onlookers in Pompano Beach, in what is a common mating practice for the endangered marine mammals.
Unlike beached whales, the manatees were in no danger and could refloat themselves when they wanted to, said Pat Quinn, a manatee biologist with Broward County.
The ended up on the beach because a group of males were pursuing an unwilling female for sex, he said. Typically these mating aggregations involve a single female and several males.
"They pretty much exhaust the female until she's too exhausted to fight back," Quinn said. "To get away, she often goes to shallow water."
The manatees can easily return to the ocean and are in no danger, he said. The only harm could come if any people get too close.
"The males get really single-minded, they can weigh 1,500 pounds, and they're thrashing around, so someone could really get hurt."
Regina Kaza, a communications major at Florida Atlantic University, was at the beach with friends when she saw something going on in the surf.
"There was a kind of blob in the water and everyone was watching it and had their phones out," she said. "I think once people realized they were in no danger they were just watching and taking pictures."
At first one appeared to be trying to get away but always swam back to the group, she said. They were there at least an hour, she said.
"They had their flippers around each other," she said.(Story continues after photo.)
— Regina Kaza (@regikaza) July 22, 2013
The manatees came onto the beach just north of the Pompano Beach Fishing Pier. Lifeguards kept people at a safe distance.
"We were just standing by for the safety of the public and the safety of the manatees," said Sandra King, spokeswoman for Pompano Beach.
Manatees are common sights in South Florida particularly during the winter, when the cold-sensitive mammals flocks in the hundreds to the warm discharge zones of the region's power plants. But they live in the area year-round, if in smaller numbers than in the winter.
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