FWC investigating high level of manatee deaths

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Florida’s struggling manatee population is already off to a rough start this year.


According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, 27 manatees have died in 2023. That’s a sharp increase from seven by the same time last year.

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Wildlife officials say it could take days to determine whether recent cold temperatures had an impact on the local manatee population.

FWC joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at De Soto Park Tuesday to help search for a young manatee that previously appeared to be in need of rescue.

“This one has basically been by itself and away from the group and not associating with an adult,” FWC Research Associate Bill Greer said. “It’s at the size where it should still be with a mom.”

However, the young manatee appeared to be on its own, and away from another group of manatees seen swimming a short distance away.

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Wildlife officials were unsuccessful in capturing the manatee Tuesday, but they’re hoping to give it its best chance at survival.

Of the 27 manatee deaths reported so far in 2023, some were birth-related. Others were linked to cold stress, but most were undetermined.

In recent years, a number of deaths have been attributed to starvation due to the lack of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon.

Generally speaking, Greer says there’s a lag time between the cold weather and reports of manatees in distress.

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This winter, a supplemental feeding site at Florida Power & Light’s Cape Canaveral Energy Center is back in operation.

For more information on FWC’s response to the recent increase in manatee deaths, click here.

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