Florida has above-average manatee deaths in 2009


Manatees gather in the warm water discharged from the Florida Power & Light Riviera Beach power plant into the Intracoastal Waterway to keep warm Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2010 in Riviera Beach, Fla.

The Palm Beach Post, Gary Coronado/The Associated
Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 9:36 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 9:36 a.m.

Florida had a significant increase in the number of manatee deaths in 2009 -- including a record number of newborn manatees reported dead -- according to preliminary information released Wednesday.

Biologists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute documented 429 manatee carcasses in state waters last year, well above the 349 deaths recorded on average over the previous five years.

Researchers said a combination of factors were apparently involved in the increase.

The two most common causes of deaths last year were watercraft-related (97) and perinatal problems in newborn manatees (114), biologists said. Those figures set record highs for both fatality categories.

Also noted in the preliminary report were the 56 manatee deaths blamed on cold stress-related problems, which is more than twice the average reported over the previous five years. Researchers said the record cold reported around the state during the winter of 2008-2009 is to blame for the increase.

The report cautioned against assuming that the increase in recorded deaths was the result of a larger manatee population in state waters.

Biologists said long-term population trends cannot be calculated from the annual, statewide, aerial surveys done to count the number of manatees visible or from the mortality figures. Instead, the biologists said figures gathered from the aerial surveys and carcass counts should be considered minimums, not definitive numbers.

To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

More general information about manatee conservation can be found at www.MyFWC.com/Manatee while additional information on manatee mortality research is available at http://research.MyFWC.com/manatees.

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