ORLANDO, Fla. – More than 1,050 manatees have died in Florida so far this year, a little less than double the number killed in 2020.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed the latest manatee mortality numbers Wednesday, along with efforts to help manatees going into the winter.
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FWC and Florida Power and Light are partnering on a temporary field response station at the Cape Canaveral power plant, and also an experimental supplemental feeding program. FWC is contracting with lettuce suppliers to substitute the seagrass beds in the Indian River Lagoon. The dying-off of that seagrass is contributing to manatee deaths because the sea cows don’t have enough food.
FWC is asking people not to try and feed the manatees on their own. However, State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, is looking for ways the public can help FWC with the feeding program in particular, and manatee rescue efforts in general.
“I’m working to see if a donation site for collected lettuce is feasible, so that we may directly assist this program. There are manatee lovers everywhere and I want to see how everyone can help,” said Stewart in a release.
FWC offered the following ways the public can help. First off, FWC is urging the public to follow good boating practices by avoiding seagrasses and shallow areas, recycle monofilament and other trash, and follow waterway signs. The agency is also asking residents to be more mindful of their impact on water quality by reducing fertilizer use on yards, and upgrading septic tanks.
FWC suggests donating to the following groups:
- Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership -- This group is a consortium of zoos, laboratories, government agencies, companies like SeaWorld and the Save the Manatee Club, working on rescue, rehabilitation and monitoring of manatees after releasing them back into the wild.
There are also a number of groups with volunteer opportunities:
Finally, if you come across a sick or injured manatee, call FWC’s Wildlife Alert toll-free number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922), or #FWC or *FWC on a mobile device.