Watch: Lifeguard captures group of manatees swimming through Miramar Beach


MIRAMAR BEACH — A lifeguard got to spend time with a rare group of tourists Thursday afternoon.

Courtney Campbell, a South Walton Fire District lifeguard on duty in Miramar Beach, captured video of a group of manatees swimming through South Walton waters.

Campbell moved in close enough to get video of the animals but did not touch any of them, according to a SWFD Facebook post.

Manatees are a protected species by state and federal laws. Unfortunately, their population numbers continue to decline, and as a result manatees are now also a threatened species, the post said.

Beachgoers had reported spotting the manatees at Crystal Beach near Destin earlier in the afternoon, and later in the day social media users reported a sighting at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

Previous sighting:Destin underwater photographer captures up-close shot of manatee mother, calf

More manatees:Local boater captures video of manatee at Crab Island

Manatees inhabit rivers, bays, canals, estuaries and coastal areas, moving freely between fresh, saline and brackish waters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Estuaries, freshwater lakes, springs and rivers provide extensive beds of seagrass and abundant freshwater vegetation that are manatees' primary food sources. 

Human-manatee interactions are comparatively common in South and Central Florida. They are far more infrequent in Northwest Florida. However, Florida manatees can be found west in the Gulf of Mexico through coastal Louisiana and are occasionally sighted as far west as Texas, according to the FWC.

It is illegal to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy or molest manatees.

More information about manatees, including how to live with them and how to help preserve them, is available at FWC https://myfwc.com/education/wildlife/manatee/.