Two periods of unusually cold weather in 2010 contributed to the number of manatee deaths for the year being more than double the yearly average of the past five years. Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) documented 767 manatee carcasses in state waters in 2010.
The cold weather in Florida caused many of these deaths, with the “cold-stress” category accounting for 279 documented cases. Of these cold-related deaths, 244 occurred in the early part of the year and 35 occurred in December. Cold stress also contributed to the deaths of 21 of the 96 manatees in the “perinatal” or “newborn” category. In addition, it is likely the cold temperatures contributed to many of the 214 deaths in the “undetermined” category and the 68 deaths in the “unrecovered” category.
“The unusually high number of manatee deaths in 2010, including those caused by the two periods of cold weather, are of concern to the FWC,” said FWRI Director Gil McRae. “Over the next few years, the FWC will be relying heavily on monitoring programs to better understand any long-term implications for the manatee population. In the meantime, we will continue to work with our partners to enhance the availability of natural warm-water sites and to rescue manatees in distress.”
FWC researchers, managers and law enforcement staff work closely together to evaluate mortality data and identify necessary actions. Managers focus on actions that can reduce risks to manatees and protect foraging and warm-water habitats. The FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement, in cooperation with partner agencies, uses knowledge of local boating habits, well-posted speed zones and up-to-date manatee information as part of its on-the-water enforcement operations. Informing boaters about manatee conservation and enforcing manatee-protection zones is a priority for the FWC.
To learn more about manatee conservation, go to MyFWC.com/Manatee. To view the 2010 preliminary mortality numbers as well as a Web article detailing the cold-related manatee die-off in early 2010, visit http://research.MyFWC.com/manatee and click on “Manatee Mortality Statistics.”
Florida residents can help manatees by purchasing the manatee specialty license plate, available at county tax collectors’ offices. The funds collected for these plates go directly to manatee research and conservation.
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).