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FWC reacts to higher than expected manatee deaths in 2013


Published:   |   Updated: January 16, 2014 at 01:47 PM

31 deaths reported in Pinellas and Hillsborough County
 
STATEWIDE — State wildlife officials say a preliminary total of 829 manatee deaths were documented in Florida waters last year; 15 deaths occurred in Pinellas County and 16 in Hillsborough County.
 
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced last week that it has stepped up efforts to respond to distressed manatees.
 
According to FWC statistics from 2013, illness related to red tide, which releases a toxin that affects the manatee’s nervous system, caused the deaths of a record 279 manatees. Fourteen manatees survived through rehabilitation efforts provided by the staff of the FWC and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. All 14 were recently released.
 
The second leading cause of death was natural causes (200); followed by death during prenatal period (13). Watercraft accidents contributed to 72 manatee deaths.
 
In a press release, Carol Knox, the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section leader, said,  “We are pleased that fewer reported manatees died from watercraft-related causes in 2013. We encourage boaters to continue to be vigilant and obey posted speed zones.”
 
In Pinellas County, one death was attributed to a watercraft accident, eight during pregnancy, one natural and five undetermined.
 
In Hillsborough County, three deaths were attributed to watercraft accidents, five during pregnancy, three for natural causes and five undetermined.
 
According to the state report, last year's record total nearly matched the total death toll from the previous two years, which were 453 and then 392. A total of 766 deaths were recorded in 2010.
 
The highest number of deaths, 276, was reported in Lee County followed by Brevard County with 245.
 
On Florida’s east coast, researchers continue to investigate the cause of death of more than 100 manatees, most of which were recovered in Brevard County. More than 50 of these deaths occurred during the peak month of March. The deaths were declared an unusual mortality event by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
 
The most recent statewide aerial surveys conducted during the winter of 2011 documented a total of 4,834 manatees. Statewide aerial surveys were not conducted during the winters of 2012 and 2013 due to warm weather conditions. FWC scientists expect that the manatee population will stabilize or increase in most areas of the state in the near term.
 
FWC officials ask that if you see a distressed or dead manatee to call their Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922)or go to http://bit.ly/reportmanatee. Cell phone customers should dial *FWC or #FWC.
 
When you call, be prepared to answer the following questions:
 
- What is the exact location of the animal?
 
- Is the manatee alive or dead?
 
- How long have you been observing the manatee?
 
- What is the approximate size of the manatee?
 
- What is the location of the public boat ramp closest to the manatee?
 
- Can you provide a contact number where you can be reached for further information?
 
To view preliminary 2013 manatee mortality data, visit MyFWC.com/Research/Manatee and click on “Manatee Mortality Statistics.”
 
To learn more about manatee conservation, go to MyFWC.com/Manatee.

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