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Apparent Manatee Orgy Causes Traffic Jam in Florida

Rubberneckers are often the reason behind traffic jams, as passersby slow down to get a peek at whatever accident or incident is attracting everyone else's attention...

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Rubberneckers are often the reason behind traffic jams, as passersby slow down to get a peek at whatever accident or incident is attracting everyone else's attention. It's annoying, sure, but it's understandable, especially when the reason for the bumper-to-bumper backup is a bunch of manatees mating steps from the road. That's not a bizarre hypothetical, either. It's what appears to have happened last week in... wait for it... Florida. 

Commuters on the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Tampa Bay, Florida last Friday found themselves in a bit of gridlock when several drivers noticed a commotion offshore and pulled over to call in what they thought to be a whale in distress, according to local affiliate Fox 13. However, after the news station sent its helicopter to investigate, it discovered that it was actually just a bunch of manatees participating in group mating ritual. 

The sea cows were apparently engaged in a rarely seen reproductive behavior known as a "mating ball," which involves a large number of males corralling a female into shallow waters and competing for her attention in an effort to mate, per an ABC Action News report. It's evidently something that's seen only every three to five years, so it makes sense that drivers might have thought something was wrong. As The Drive points out, it does sound like a pretty messed up situation for the female, but it may also be critical to ensuring the manatee population doesn't dwindle. As of last year, the species is considered "vulnerable," or nearly endangered. 

Manatee mating season stretches from March through November, so it's possible this sort of activity might be spotted offshore sometime in the near future. Though, if you see it happening behind the wheel, please keep calm and carry on. Nothing to see here, just a bunch of manatees getting freaky.

h/t The Drive


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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.