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Recent cold weather sparks concern, after last year’s record manatee die-off

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

Florida wildlife authorities say the number of manatee deaths in the state has nudged higher with recent cold weather. 

They are watching the situation closely after last year’s record die-off of more than 1,100 manatees. 

Already this year 97 manatees have died. More than half of the deaths have been in Brevard County, where seagrass losses in the Indian River Lagoon have left the animals starving. 

Martine de Wit of the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute says the recent cold weather has been typical of Florida but that the manatees are too starved and weak to withstand it. 

“These animals are compromised. It’s an ongoing starvation event, and many of these animals are dealing with sub-optimal nutrition, probably for over a year now.” 

As many as 700 manatees have gathered recently for warmth at a Cape Canaveral power plant. That’s also where wildlife authorities are providing supplemental lettuce for starving manatees due to the loss of seagrass. 

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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 »