BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — So far, 562 Manatees have died in Florida this year, down from the 763 manatee deaths reported by this time last year.
While the number is lower, wildlife experts say it’s still far too high.
Manatee rescue teams say they’re preparing now for another hard winter.
Just this week, teams from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission teamed up with SeaWorld to search along the Indian River lagoon in Titusville for a manatee that was reported to be in distress.
“The live manatees that need assistance take priority for us over the deceased ones,” FWC Marine Mammal Biologist Bill Greer said.
A record 1,101 manatees died in Florida all of last year. Researchers attribute many of the deaths to malnutrition from the lack of seagrasses in the Indian River lagoon.
Experts say warmer months have provided some relief, as manatees have dispersed into areas with more reliable food sources, but the effects of malnutrition may be long-lasting.
“What we’re doing primarily right now is a lot of planning and getting ready for next winter,” FWC Incident Commander John Wallace said. “The lagoon isn’t going to regrow its seagrass beds over the summer.”
Currently, more than 90 manatees are in rehab at critical care or in holding facilities.
Greer says they’re working with multiple different agencies throughout the state to help the manatees when needed.
With summer approaching, wildlife officials say boat strikes on manatee are another concern they have.
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