INDIAN RIVER LAGOON, FLa. – Florida manatees are showing signs of improvement in the third winter of what state wildlife officials are calling an unusual mortality event.
During a webinar Wednesday, members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said they were “cautiously optimistic” about the manatee mortality numbers so far in 2023.
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According to officials, fewer manatees died in December 2022 than in years past and of those that died, fewer died of starvation.
“It’s all about the trend here,” Dr. Martina DeWitt with FWC said. “Even though we’ve lost more than 1,300 manatees, we are not seeing the problems we saw in the last two winters.”
DeWitt said the available vegetation during the summer and fall may have helped Florida manatees get healthy enough to better survive the colder winter months.
“We’re in much better condition, most of these animals were right on weight for their expected body length,” she said.
According to preliminary mortality reports, 45 manatees carcasses have been reported to FWC.
Last year, state and federal offices began feeding thousands of pounds of romaine lettuce to manatees at a warm-water power plant near Cape Canaveral in an effort to slow manatee starvation deaths.
Officials said they are seeing early signs that malnutrition is causing reproductive issues within the state’s manatee population, but the exact extent hasn’t been determined.
“We did not see as many calf carcasses or live calves in the past few years as we did before,” DeWitt said. “With knowing that malnutrition does affect your reproduction, I think it’s safe to say that yes, there are reproduction impacts.”
To report an injured, sick or dead manatee, contact the FWC manatee rescue by calling 1-88-404-3922 or click here.
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