Cold weather in early 2010 took toll on manatees
Friday, December 10, 2010
Media contact: Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626
The cold weather earlier this year led to a record
high number of manatee deaths in 2010. From the beginning of the
year through Dec. 5, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research
Institute (FWRI) documented 699 manatee carcasses in state
This preliminary data indicates the number of
manatee deaths documented from Jan. 1 through Dec. 5 is nearly
double the five-year average for that time period.
The "cold-stress" category accounts for 244
documented manatee deaths, which were caused by exposure to low
water temperatures. However, it is likely the cold temperatures
also contributed to many of the 203 deaths in the "undetermined"
category and the 68 deaths in the "unrecovered" category.
The 2010 cold-related manatee die-off was
unprecedented in both numbers and geographic extent. A large number
of manatee deaths identified as cold-related occurred throughout
much of the state, as far south as the Everglades and the Florida
Although the cold weather was a natural event, this
die-off underscores the importance of warm-water habitat for the
long-term survival of the species.
"We are very concerned about the unusually high
number of manatee deaths this year. Data from our monitoring
programs over the next few years will tell us if there are
long-term implications for the population," said the director of
FWRI, Gil McRae. "The cold-related deaths this past winter
emphasize the importance of warm-water habitat to Florida's
manatees. Maximizing access for manatees to natural
warm-water sites will continue to be a focus for the FWC and our
partners moving forward."
The cold weather likely was responsible for fewer
watercraft-related mortalities earlier in 2010. However, later in
the year, watercraft-related deaths trended higher than average and
as a result, the year-end total for watercraft-related deaths will
likely be similar to that of previous years.
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 habitat. 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. Enforcing manatee
protection zones and informing boaters about manatee conservation
is a priority for the FWC.
To learn more about manatee conservation, go to
Residents can help manatees survive by purchasing
the manatee specialty license plate, available at all 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