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Warm weather boosts manatees, prompts wind-down of supplemental lettuce

Wildlife agencies offered lettuce to starving manatees in the Indian River Lagoon. Photo courtesy the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Wildlife agencies offered lettuce to starving manatees in the Indian River Lagoon. Photo courtesy the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Wildlife agencies say they are winding down a program to provide supplemental lettuce for starving manatees in the Indian River Lagoon. 

The program will be discontinued in about two weeks.

By then some 200,000 pounds of lettuce will have been provided at a Cape Canaveral power plant, where the cold-sensitive manatees gather for warmth during the winter. 

The wildlife agencies began offering the lettuce in December, according to Scott Calleson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Once the animals started eating on site on Jan. 20, from that date forward they’ve eaten virtually every scrap we’ve put out.” 

Calleson now says the weather is warming, which means the manatees are looking elsewhere for food. 

He says the wildlife agencies will continue to monitor the manatees after ending the program. The agencies have not ruled out providing the lettuce again next winter. 

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.