Annual manatee death count shows cold weather an unusually big factor again
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Media contact: Kevin Baxter, 727-896-8626
A cold-related die-off of manatees in early 2011 set the stage
for a third straight year with high numbers of deaths for the
species. Biologists with the research arm of the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) documented 453 manatee
carcasses in state waters in 2011.
During the past three years, biologists documented the highest
levels of cold-related manatee deaths, with the "cold stress"
category accounting for 112 in 2011, 282 in 2010 and 56 in 2009. In
the previous five years, cold stress accounted for an average of 30
manatee deaths per year.
The total number of reported manatee deaths in 2011 was the
second-highest on record. Biologists documented a record 766
manatee deaths in 2010 and recorded the third-highest total of 429
"We are concerned about the number of manatee deaths the past
three years, including those resulting from exposure to cold
weather," said Gil McRae, director of the FWC's Fish and Wildlife
Research Institute. "Over the next few years, we will use data from
monitoring programs to better understand any long-term implications
for the population. We will continue to work with our partners to
enhance the availability of natural warm-water sites, which are
important habitats for the species' survival," McRae said.
FWC researchers, managers and law enforcement staff work closely
together to evaluate mortality data and identify necessary actions.
Managers focus on actions that can reduce risks to manatees and
protect foraging and warm-water habitats. The FWC's Division
of Law Enforcement, in cooperation with partner agencies,
uses knowledge of local boating habits, well-posted speed
zones and up-to-date manatee information as part of its
on-the-water enforcement operations. Informing boaters about
manatee conservation and enforcing manatee-protection zones are
priorities for the FWC.
To learn more about manatee conservation, go to MyFWC.com/Manatee.
To view the 2011
preliminary mortality numbers, visit MyFWC.com/Research/Manatee
and click on "Manatee Mortality Statistics."
Florida residents can help manatees by purchasing the manatee
specialty license plate, available at county tax collectors'
offices. The funds collected for these plates go directly to
manatee research and conservation.
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC's Wildlife
Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).