Record-setting cold blamed in manatee deaths

Manatee enjoy the warm spring waters in the sanctuary around the outlet to Three Sisters Spring in Crystal River, Fl on Thursday January 28, 2010. The cold winter weather drives the marine mammals up into the warm 72 degree spring water.

Alan Youngblood/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 2:59 p.m.

A significant increase in manatee deaths around Florida last year is being blamed in part on a double dose of extremely cold weather during 2010.


Manatee deaths in Florida

YearTotal deathsCold-related deaths
Source: Fish and Wildlife Research Institute


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More information about manatees can be found at
To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, there were 767 manatees found dead in state waters in 2010. Biologists determined that 279 of the deaths were related to cold weather stress, which is up nearly five times from the amount of similar deaths in 2009.

The researchers also said that the majority of the cold-related deaths — 244 of them — were recorded during the record-setting cold during the first part of 2010, while another 35 were reported during the record-setting cold of December.

The research institute also noted increases in other causes of manatee deaths as well, including natural causes.

"The unusually high number of manatee deaths in 2010, including those caused by the two periods of cold weather, are of concern to the FWC," said the director of the research institute, Gil McRae.

The reasons for the increase in mortality rates are not clearly understood but are a concern to researchers, McRae said.

"Over the next few years, the FWC will be relying heavily on monitoring programs to better understand any long-term implications for the manatee population," McRae said. "In the meantime, we will continue to work with our partners to enhance the availability of natural warm-water sites and to rescue manatees in distress."

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