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Wildlife officials, FPL create temporary field response station to address manatee deaths

Wildlife officials and Florida Power & Light Company created a temporary field response station in an effort to address the unusual manatee mortality event along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

The response station will support several unusual manatee mortality event response operations already underway in the central Indian River Lagoon, such as manatee rescues, carcass recovery, and limited field health assessments, wildlife officials said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said they also approved staff to conduct a short-term feeding trial, referred to by many as supplemental feeding.

The goal of the feeding trial is to reduce manatee mortality and to reduce the number of animals in need of rescue, officials said.

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“We understand the importance of a timely response. Our agencies and Unified Command partners carefully considered all aspects of a short-term feeding trial,” said Shannon Estenoz, assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior. “It is critical we help manatees in the short term with actions that are compatible with their long-term well-being and resilience.”

Officials said they still anticipate relatively high mortality along Florida’s Atlantic Coast during the winter of 2021-22 due to chronic effects of starvation from the loss of seagrass associated with poor water quality within the Indian River Lagoon.

“Because this trial effort is a management action that has not been tried before, we do not know how many manatees will visit the site or how much vegetation individual manatees will consume. The goal of this action is to reduce manatee mortality. It will not eliminate it,” officials said.

Ways you can help manatees:

  • Call FWC’s Wildlife Alert toll-free number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone if you see a sick, injured, dead or tagged manatee.
  • Boaters will find them easier to spot if they wear polarized sunglasses and keep a lookout for signs of manatees such as the circular “footprints” they trace on the top of the water or their snouts sticking up out the water.
  • Look, but don’t touch manatees. Keep your distance when boating, even if you are steering a canoe, kayak or paddleboard. Be a good role model for others so that they learn how to watch and enjoy manatees without disturbing the animals.
  • The plate you buy matters; support FWC manatee rescues and research. Next time you renew your tag, consider a “Save the Manatee” license plate
  • Show your support for manatee conservation by proudly displaying a manatee decal. These high-quality stickers feature original artwork and are available from your local Tax Collector’s office with a $5 donation.

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