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Despite lettuce, manatee deaths in Brevard far outpace rest of the state

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

Manatee deaths in Brevard County continue to far outpace deaths in the rest of the state, even as wildlife agencies provide supplemental lettuce for starving manatees. 

Some 164 manatees have died this year in Florida, with 111 of those in Brevard County, where seagrass losses in the Indian River Lagoon have left the animals starving. 

The numbers are close to what they were this time last year, although Ron Mezich of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the lettuce is helping.

“It’s known to be good and high in fat and digestable carbohydrates, which the animals need right now. And we’re exposing large numbers of animals to this food source, and they’re eating it.” 

A record 1,100 manatees died last year in the state, prompting the unprecedented supplemental feedings near a power plant in Cape Canaveral. 

Wildlife agencies say they expect to continue providing the supplemental lettuce through March. 

Mezich says the cold-sensitive manatees are consuming the lettuce.

“Manatee attendance is still fluctuating with the weather, and so as long as the chance for cool weather continues we will remain on site.” 

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s ... Read Full Bio »