MIAMI (CBS4) – South Florida waterways are dotted with signs warning people to slow down for manatees, but even increased awareness of the gentle giants in the water has not bene enough to stop the killing.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the cold weather seen in early 2010 resulted in a record number of manatee deaths, despite other efforts to save them.
The agency’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute documented 699 manatee deaths in state waters. Some 244 were caused by “cold stress,” exposure to low water temperatures. The cause of death in many of the other cases was undetermined, but officials believe the cold temperatures likely contributed.
Even in warmer times, the heat-loving sea mammals can be seen huddling around power plant outflows in winter, seeking warmth ad sea temperatures dip below 80 degrees
The preliminary figures indicate manatee deaths in from Jan. 1 to Dec. 5 of 2010 were nearly double the five-year average for the same time period.
The deaths were documented throughout the state and as far south as the Keys.
More data will need to be collected to determine if there is a long-term effect for the population.