PINELLAS COUNTY – On any given day and any given location along Pinellas County's 26 miles of coastline fronting the Gulf of Mexico sights of marine life can be abundant at times.
And last weekend was no exception for local beach-goers, sun-worshippers and a seasoned seafairing man who soon realized they weren't alone as commotions in the Gulf caught their attention.
For avid recreation boater and fisherman Ed Feller of St. Petersburg a frolicking pod of manatees caught his attention. He said it was impossible to count the number of sea cows that swam near shore on the north beach of Fort Desoto.
“There were so many,” swimming around each other, bumping noses and vying for the affections of a female in the pod. “She was drawing a lot of attention.”
Feller's photo also depicts one of the greatest challenges for the docile manatees – passing boat propellers. Deep cuts are obviously noticeable on the mammal's back.
Meanwhile, just a few miles north near St. Pete Beach, a school of stingrays caught the attention of a Tampa beach-going family, Ed and Triin Karr and their children Annika and Logan. From a 'cautious' distance, the family counted more than 30 stingrays in the school. Triin said that this wasn't the first time they came across such a large school of stingrays. “It's the second weekend in a row that we've seen them."
Stingray season begins when the water turns warm – usually in late-spring or early-summer and since the Gulf remains warm, the chances of coming upon a school is possible. Public safety officials continue to stress caution as key in preventing often-excruciating run-ins with stingrays.
If you are stung by a stingray, Clearwater city officials recommend you see a lifeguard immediately. For more information, call (727) 462-6963.