Record cold leads to record number of manatee deaths
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Media contact: Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626
As of March 19, biologists with the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife
Research Institute (FWRI) have documented 431 manatee carcasses in
state waters so far in 2010. This preliminary data indicates that
in just three months, the number of manatee deaths has exceeded the
highest number on record for an entire calendar year, which was 429
in 2009. The cause of death for the majority of these animals is
The "cold-stress" category accounts for 222
documented manatee carcasses; however, it is likely the cold
temperatures also contributed to many of the 108 deaths in the
"undetermined" category and the 64 deaths in the "unrecovered"
Manatee deaths are categorized as "undetermined"
when biologists are not able to confirm the cause of death, often
because the carcasses are too badly decomposed. The "unrecovered"
category includes carcasses that are unavailable to scientists,
such as when carcasses are found in remote locations.
Unfortunately, the number of recovered carcasses
for this year continues to be well above long-term averages.
As the rate of cold-related deaths diminishes, FWC staff will begin
to focus on determining the long-term implications for the manatee
population, a process that could take several years.
The period of prolonged cold weather earlier this
year exposed manatees in Florida to colder than normal water
temperatures. Exposure to low temperatures over a period of time
can cause a condition called "manatee cold-stress syndrome," which
can result in death.
"The unprecedented rate of mortality this year is
of great concern," said Gil McRae, FWRI director. "FWC staff,
partners and volunteers have done a tremendous job working around
the clock for weeks recovering carcasses and conducting rescues
Since the cold weather conditions began to affect
Florida, FWC staff and conservation partners have rescued 48
manatees from across the state and continue to respond to reports
of distressed manatees.
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the
FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
For additional information about manatee
conservation, visit MyFWC.com/Manatee. You can help manatees
by purchasing a "Save the Manatee" license plate. The money you
contribute will be used to rescue injured manatees and to help
scientists learn more about the causes of manatee mortality. For
more information, go to www.buyaplate.com.