Brevard County reports increased number of manatee deaths

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Since the beginning of 2022 state and federal wildlife officials have reported 97 manatee deaths.

Brevard County is one area that has seen the greatest impacts on manatee populations this year.

Tom Reinert with FWC Joint Unified Command said he expects those numbers to remain high over the course of the winter.

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READ: ‘It’s heartbreaking’: What’s being done to curb record manatee deaths

“Cold weather over the last week or so has certainly put manatees on the move and they have started to aggregate in greater numbers at their warm water locations.” Reinert said.

Last week FWC reported 16 manatee deaths in one day, with 13 of those deaths reported in Brevard County.

Martine Dewit with the FWC’s Research Institute said the reason for the deaths goes beyond cold temperatures.

Read: ‘Stranded high & dry’: Manatee rescued along a dirt road in Florida

“These animals are compromised. It’s an ongoing starvation event and many of these animals are dealing with sub-optimal nutrition probably for over a year now,” Dewit said.

To that end the Joint Unified Command has begun feeding manatees to try to keep manatee populations from dwindling even further.

The pilot program is part of a temporary field response station at FPL’s Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center.

Read: Manatee feeding experiment starts slowly as cold looms

The area has historically been a warm water refuge for manatees but a decline in seagrass over the past decade combined with algal blooms in the Indian River Lagoon has also contributed to the crisis.

To report injured, distressed or dead manatees contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

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Matt Reeser

Matt Reeser, WFTV.com

Matt Reeser joined WFTV in 1998 as a news photographer and has worked for television stations in Kentucky and West Virginia.