Vol. 16 No. 38 - July 20, 2016
Florida manatee deaths rise
CINDY LANE | SUN
A manatee takes a breath at the south end of Anna Maria Island.
Ten manatees have died so far this year in Manatee County, four in watercraft collisions, including one off Holmes Beach and one off Cortez, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Statewide, 323 manatees died as of July 8, closing in on the five-year average of 490 deaths per year in just over six months.
A male manatee was killed by watercraft in Grassy Point Bayou off Holmes Beach on March 31, and another male was killed by watercraft on May 25 in Anna Maria Sound off Cortez. A female was killed by watercraft on June 12 in Terra Ceia Bay and a male was killed by watercraft on May 22 in Miguel Bay off Terra Ceia.
No charges were filed because the animals’ bodies were discovered after the boat strikes, and wildlife officers had no way of knowing which boats had hit them, said Scott Calleson, an FWC biological scientist, adding that the cause of death was determined from necropsies. Charges could be filed if someone witnessed a boater violating a speed zone and hitting a manatee, he said.
Deaths unrelated to watercraft are a male manatee that died of natural causes discovered in January off Longboat Key; a male found in the Braden River in February that died of natural causes; a male found in Terra Ceia Bay in Palmetto in February that died of cold stress; a male found in March in the Manatee River that died around birth; a male found in May in Bishops Bayou off Longboat Key that died around birth; and a female found in June in the Manatee River off Palmetto that died of undetermined causes.
Statewide, 65 manatees have died so far this year in encounters with boats, Jet Skis and other floating recreational vehicles. Watercraft collisions are the second largest cause of manatee deaths so far this year, surpassed only by perinatal deaths (calves that die shortly before or after birth). Manatees also die from red tide exposure and entrapment in flood gates and locks.
In 2015, 405 manatee deaths were recorded statewide; in 2014, 371 deaths; in 2013, 830 deaths; in 2012, 392 deaths; in 2011, 453 deaths for a five-year average of 490 deaths per year, according to the FWC.
If you see a manatee in distress or a dead manatee, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-3922 (FWCC), #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or text Tip@MyFWC.com. Report the location of the animal, its signs of injury or distress, the nearest boat ramp and your contact information.