Colder water sends manatees to FWC’s Cocoa feeding stations

Officials urge the public not to feed manatees themselves

Manatees feed on lettuce at a temporary feeding station in Cocoa. (FWC, FWC 2022)

COCOA, Fla. – Manatees are finally coming to the FPL power plant in Brevard County and feeding on lettuce at special feeding stations, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission workers said Friday.

During the weekly update on Florida’s unusual manatee mortality event, officials said they observed manatees showing up at the temporary field response station in Cocoa Thursday, where a supplemental feeding trial is set up to give the manatees lettuce.

[TRENDING: Meat Loaf, ‘Bat Out of Hell’ rock superstar, dies at 74 | Opener for Bob Saget at Florida shows speaks out | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

Video shows several manatees feeding on lettuce at the pods set up. Officials say they believe manatees began feeding on the lettuce the night before, and more returned throughout Thursday. They say they’ve seen 25 to 30 manatees of various sizes, including calves, near the feeding site.

Manatee Response Update: Munching Manatees

Manatee Response Update: Munching Manatees We observed manatees eating vegetation provided by our team at the Temporary Field Response Station for the first time yesterday. While this is an encouraging step, we do not yet know if this behavior will continue. Our expert staff are continuing to provide food, monitor manatees onsite and are assisting and responding to manatees affected by the Unusual Mortality Event along the Atlantic coast. Want to help manatees? Don’t try to feed them yourself – it can teach them to associate people with food & is illegal. Leave it to the experts & learn about other ways to help: #manatee #conservation

Posted by MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife on Friday, January 21, 2022

“We think it’s significant,” said Ron Mezich, chief of the effort’s provisioning branch. “When the animals are there, we will continue to offer food and hope they take advantage of that.”

Temperatures have been lower this week, and when water temperatures are colder, manatees tend to come to the FPL power plant for the warm water discharge, which is why FWC set up the field response station here.

Last year more than 1,100 manatees died in Florida, the majority of them in the Indian River Lagoon, where there has been a mass die-off of seagrass beds, which is the primary food source for the manatees. Pollution from agricultural, urban and other sources has triggered algae blooms that decimated the seagrass beds.

FWC is hopeful that manatees will continue to come to the station to feed, but it will depend on the weather.

The agency urges the public not to try and feed manatees themselves because it would train the animals to become reliant on humans for food. If you see a manatee in distress, you’re urged to call FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone.

There are other ways to help the manatees, either by donating money or by volunteering with several groups. We have a list HERE.

Meanwhile, the weather is expected to be perfect this weekend to see manatees at another popular spot in Central Florida -- Blue Spring State Park in Volusia County. Learn more about the Orange City Blue Spring Manatee Festival HERE.

About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.