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Shocking footage has emerged from Florida of a man on a boat appearing to sail into a group of manatees and poke one with a fishing rod.

Video filmed on February 22 at Weedon Island in St. Petersburg shows the boat approaching the manatees. As the vessel slows down, the boat captain grabs a fishing rod and reaches out to startle one of the manatees, causing the manatee and the rest of the group to panic and flee en masse.

After the manatees move on, the boat captain high fives the person next to him on the boat.

“After this I decided I should fly the drone a little lower so I could get make sure I recorded the hull numbers on the boat,” the filmer told . “When I did, the boat captain tried to snag my drone with his fishing pole by casting on it [also seen in the video].”

The filmer, an experienced wildlife watcher and drone operator who runs the popular YouTube channel See Through Canoe, told : “When manatees gather in warm water spots on cold days like this it is because they need the warm water to survive, because they don’t have blubber to keep them warm like whales.

“When they are disturbed in their warm water sanctuaries they may leave because of the human pressure. This could cause the manatee to die.

“Cold stress is one of the main causes of manatee deaths other than propeller strikes and internal impact wounds from being hit by boat hulls and jet skis.”

Although manatees were removed from the Endangered Species List in early 2017, they are still protected by the Marine Mammals Protection Act and humans are still not supposed to touch, feed, chase or otherwise harass them.

An estimated 531 manatees died in Florida waters in the past 12 months according to a report published in on February 2 by environmental news site Eco Watch. It said the cause of most of the deaths were boats.

RAW VIDEO ON TOP NEWS REPORT ON BOTTOM

 

 

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