WQCS Header Background Image
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Cautious Optimism Over the Fate of Hungry Manatees as the Feeding Program Continues

manatee feed 2.jpg
Photo courtesy FWC

Indian River Lagoon - Wednesday January 4, 2023: Wildlife Officials remain cautiously optimistic over the fate of hungry manatees in the Indian River Lagoon.

During the weekly conference call on the status of the manatee feeding program, which is now in its second season, FWC Capt. Thomas Van Trees was upbeat and optimistic, with thousands of pounds of produce on hand to feed hungry manatees. “We’re there, we’re fully operational, we’re running. We have received somewhere around 35-thousand pounds of produce to our site," he said.

In addition, he said the waters of the Indian River Lagoon have warmed up from the 51 degree temperatures they sank to during the cold snap last month that drove dozens of manatees into the warm water feeding site at the FP&L plant in Port St. John. “The ambient water temperatures are back up to a approximately 68-degrees. And the numbers of manatees change throughout the day with a recent high of 75 manatees on site.”

That is far fewer seeking food than last winter, said FWC's Andy Garrett, when the number of manatees at the feeding site was well over 100, and the number dying from starvation was at its worst. “In the peak days of the past two year there could be 15 to 20 carcasses reported daily. We’re not nearly at those numbers yet. There could be more carcasses out there that haven’t been reported. Thankfully right now we’re not seeing the volume that we were.”

But that doesn’t mean all is well in the lagoon. Garrett, who leads FWC's rescue team, cites the rescue of a female manatee and her calf this past week. They were aimlessly swimming side-ways in the lagoon near Daytona.That sideways swim position, there is definitely some kind of connection with weight loss and the cold weather that we see when these animals end up that way," he said. "We don’t 100% know why that happens. There is a lot of investigation going into what causes that.”

2022 ended with 106 manatees needing to be rescued and 783 dead, as December 23. Both lower than the previous year, but still higher than normal.

Cellular phone users should enter - *FWC or #FWC.