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As herbivores, manatees’ appetite for green, leafy things is legendary. These include turtle grass, manatee grass, shoal grass, mangrove leaves, various algae, water hyacinth and water hydrilla.
However, after the recent flooding associated with Tropical Storm Debby, Crystal River resident Dan Cyr would like to add one more thing to sea cows’ menu: lawn grass.
Cyr, who lives on a canal in the Magnolia Shores area, picked up his phone and walked onto his moderately flooded backyard during the storms and lo and behold, he saw a manatee munching away at his lawn grass.
“I saw two of them that day,” Cyr said. “We practically live in a natural playground. I am used to seeing all kinds of things out there, but this was the first time I had seen manatees in the yard.”
Manatees are known to consume about 4 percent to 9 percent (32 to 108 pounds for an adult manatee) of their body weight in wet vegetation every day.
Manatees normally feed off the bottom, in the water column and at the surface. But Michael Lusk, refuge manager of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said they are known to crop overhanging branches and haul themselves partially out of the water to eat bank vegetation.
“They, however, do not beach themselves like whales,” Lusk said.
He said his office has not had any reports of manatees being stuck during the storms.
“Usually, most of the manatees are out in the Gulf at this time of the year, I guess the ones that are still around will try to eat anything green they can find,” Lusk added.
Cyr said he doesn’t mind his mammalian visitors.
“I am glad I had the phone camera with me to take a picture. It was nice to see them and they mowed the back yard for me.”
Chronicle reporter A.B. Sidibe can be reached at 352-564-2925 or email@example.com.