Manatee feeding site now up and running
Brevard County, Fl (treasurecoast.com) -The temporary manatee feeding site in Brevard County is now fully operational with “small amounts of lettuce” in the water, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Wednesday.
But manatees so far aren’t gathering in large numbers to fend off colder water, and the few animals spotted in the area this week weren’t observed eating the leafy greens, according to FWC spokesperson Michelle Kerr.
At least 1,075 manatees have died in Florida waters this year, according to the latest FWC data. Biologists and environmental groups point to decades of seagrass loss — a result of human-caused pollution — as a catalyst for the starvation and malnutrition afflicting the east coast’s manatee population.
The lack of food source led to the creation of a “temporary field response station” at the Florida Power & Light Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center bordering the Indian River Lagoon. State wildlife officials agreed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month to begin preparations for a first-ever feeding experiment there.
Now there’s food in the water, but only a couple of sea cows are nearby. More are expected when the water temperature drops.
Manatees tend to gather in areas with warmer water, like unnatural outputs at power plants, when the temperature dips below 68 degrees, according to Gil McRae, director of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. With a mostly mild December so far, that means manatees have yet to gather in large numbers at the cordoned feeding site.
Water temperatures usually take longer to fall than the air temperatures, and responders are predicting more manatee sightings as the water cools, according to FWC. The air temperature as of Wednesday afternoon at Cape Canaveral was 63 degrees Fahrenheit.
When manatee presence increases, staff will increase the amount of food offered and have secured numerous sources to obtain produce..
One of those sources is the Belle Glade-based TKM Farms. Wildlife officials purchased 550 pounds of romaine lettuce from the farm for $250, spokesperson Carli Segelson told TCPalm. When placing the leafy greens in the water, staff are using floating PVC pipe squares to prevent it from drifting outside the supplemental feeding area and potentially mucking the lagoon.
A state wildlife team last week captured a previously rescued adult female manatee for a routine health assessment. During their check-up, the sea cow was found to be underweight and was brought to SeaWorld in Orlando for rehabilitation.
Call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Toll-Free Number: 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922), press “7” to speak with an operator.
Cellular phone customers: *FWC or #FWC