VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Over 1000 manatees have died this year in Florida. It’s a gruesome trend that is breaking all previous death records according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
As it gets colder, biologists said the numbers could get worse.
On Thursday, Blue Springs State Park in Orange City had 129 manatees. It’s one of the places researchers said the animals will pack in to stay warm and try to find seagrass to eat.
“Manatees are on the move. They do need to get to warm water to survive the winter. So, we see them aggregating,” said Dr. Martine De Wit, a veterinarian with the FWC.
De Wit said those in Blue Springs will likely be safe through the winter.
FWC’s biggest worry is the manatees in the Indian River Lagoon in Central Florida. In the peak of colder months, she said 70% of those will head near the Titusville power plant for warmth.
“That is our problem area where there is no seagrass left,” she said.
The lagoon in Brevard and Volusia counties is where most of the deaths have been in the state this year. The FWC reports as of Nov. 12, 1,003 manatees have died in Florida, which is more than the previous two years combined.
De Wit calls it an Unusual Mortality Event that actually started last winter.
“At least this year we’ll be more prepared. Over the summer we worked really hard to increase capacity for manatees that need rehab,” she said.
State leaders and scientists are still weighing the options of allowing biologists to feed them too, but as temperatures dip rescuers already have their hands full.
“Now it’s November and we’ve already seen manatees come in with the signs of prolonged starvation,” De Wit said.
The FWC asks if you do see a sick or injured manatee to give them a call. You just dial #FWC on your cell phone.