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Report a Sick, Injured, Dead, or Tagged Manatee

Call FWC's Wildlife Alert Toll-Free Number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922), press "7" to speak with an operator.

Cellular phone customers: *FWC or #FWC

Manatee Necropsy

FWC scientists perform consistent, high quality necropsies (non-human autopsies) to determine causes of death in manatee carcasses reported in Florida. Information gained from these necropsies (and the manatee rescue program) is crucial to providing wildlife managers with information about manatee health, mortality factors, life history, and biology, as well as potential causes for Unusual Mortality Events.  

An external examination is completed for each carcass to document body condition and any external lesions. The carcass is fully photo documented for matching with the Manatee Photo-identification Program to determine if the carcass was a known individual; this information is used to support assessments of adult survival rates. The carcass is scanned for PIT (passive integrated transponder) tags, small microchips that are implanted in any manatee captured for rescue or research. Genetics samples are collected to analyze the manatee’s DNA for population research. Morphometrics, weight and body measurements, are collected. Following the external exam, the internal organs are systematically examined.

Depending on the level of decomposition, appropriate samples are collected for analysis to assist in the determination of cause of death. These samples may be tested for biotoxins or infectious pathogens, and may be submitted for histological examination by a veterinary pathologist. The Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory also receives tissue sample requests from researchers and education institutions of all levels. Requested samples have been sent to facilities around to world to aid in permitted manatee conservation research. Fresh carcasses provide the most information for researchers, but even badly decomposed carcasses can provide insight into life history, health issues, and cause of death. Staff members generate a necropsy report that documents the findings from each carcass. In addition, carcass recovery locations are verified and mapped in a GIS. The MMPL has created and curates a database that contains mortality information from 1974 to the present and produces weekly, monthly, and annual reports.

Descriptions of Manatee Death Categories

Manatee deaths are broken down into nine categories based on gross, histological, and microbiological findings.

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