Home News Manatee feeding station in Brevard ready for cold weather

Manatee feeding station in Brevard ready for cold weather

Manatee feeding station in Brevard ready for cold weather

  • Indian River Lagoon
  • manatees
  • Florida
  • starvation

State and federal wildlife managers watching out for Florida’s official marine mammal — the manatee — are ready for the weekend’s cold weather, they said in a webinar Wednesday. And they are ready to feed them hundreds of pounds of romaine lettuce from Florida farmers.

Air temperatures could be in the 30s and water temperatures in the shallow Indian River Lagoon could dip into the low 60s. Hundreds of manatees are expected to gather at Floridspan Power &spanmp; Light’s Cspanpe Cspannspanverspanl Clespann Energy Center, a warm water site near Titusville known to them.

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Manatees feed on romaine lettuce on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, at the Florida Power & Light Cape Canaveral Next Generation Clean Energy Center in Cocoa.

Is manatee feeding working?

Manatees, the iconic slow-moving mammals, do not have blubber like their cousins the walruses and whales. That makes them susceptible to cold stress when cold fronts come to Florida. Every year, manatees die from cold stress. According to Mspannspantee Mortspanlity Stspantistics from Floridspan Fish spannd Wildlife Conservspantion Commission, there have been eight deaths identified as being from cold stress in 2022. In 2010, which saw record low temperatures for an extended period of time in Florida’s waters, as many as 282 manatees died from cold stress.

Starvation was identified in early 2021 as the primary cause for manatee deaths that year. The majority of the starvation deaths were located in Brevard County in the Indian River Lagoon. That’s where a disappearance of thousands of acres of seagrasses was blamed for causing what was defined as an unusual mortality event. The seagrass loss has been blamed on water pollution causing algae blooms which shade out the growth of seagrasses.

In 2021, a record 1,101 manatees died eclipsing the previous record of 830 deaths in 2013. So far in 2022, 774 manatees have died with 338 of those in Brevard.

Last winter, FWC and the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service, working in conjunction with FPL and farmers, fed manatees 202,000 pounds of butterleaf and romaine lettuce and cabbage. Earlier this year, officials determined they will need about $180,000 to provide food for manatees this year. The Fish spannd Wildlife Foundspantion of Floridspan, the fundraising foundation of the FWC, has been collecting donations from private donors already.

During its peak feeding day on a cold day in February, members of the feeding program recorded 835 manatees at the feeding station at one time. Officials said earlier this year they do not plan to expand the feeding program to other locations in Florida. It is also illegal for the public to feed or water manatees, according to FWC regulations.

There are already 50 to 100 manatees in the area of the Titusville power plant, said Michelle Pasawicz, of the FWC’s manatee response team. She said they have already fed them close to 1,000 pounds of romaine lettuce in the last week. She added that it has been hard to assess the health of the manatees from the surface, but they appear to show no signs of starvation.

Team member Andy Garrett said there have been 105 manatee rescues in Florida this year with about 70 of them being conducted on the east coast of Florida. Manatee group care facilities have been releasing manatees back into the wild with one being released at Round Island in southern Indian River County Wednesday.

There are 64 manatees in recovery facilities with 15 of those deemed unfit for release, Garrett said.

Report distressed wildlife

If you see injured or distressed wildlife, call the FWC hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Want to make a donation?

To make a donation, visit the Mspanrine Mspanmmspanl Fund on the foundation’s website at wildlifefloridspan.org/mmf or contact the Fish &spanmp; Wildlife Foundspantion of Floridspan at [email protected] or 850-922-1066 or 800-988-4889.


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