Manatees: Hope Springs Eternal

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November is Manatee Awareness Month in Florida. For over 30 years proclamations have been officially made to help protect this endangered marine mammal and Florida treasure.

This November is different though, as a sense of foreboding blankets the future of the sirenians here in Florida. This year, 2013 has seen the highest mortality of manatees since record keeping began = 766 manatee deaths as of October 25, 2013 and 769 currently according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission records. Of these, 276 manatees died where red tide was prevalent in southwest Florida. Additionally, in this Florida Fish and Wildlife preliminary report an unusually high number of “Undetermined” manatee deaths were reported near the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast. It is thought to be part of a serious toxic imbalance along with a significant loss of seagrass beds, part of the manatee’s main food source.

Manatees: Hope Springs EternalFlorida manatee, Trichechus manatus latirostris, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, endangered. A series of manatees gathering near the warm springs during the bitter cold period of early January 2010. Two skinny adult manatees rest as one takes a breath in the warm shallow blue spring water lit by strong warming sun rays. Another manatee forages in the background surrounded by fish, bream, Lepomis spp. Manatees need these natural warm springs to survive cold weather, like today. Horizontal orientation with blue water and strong warming sun rays with reflection. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Kings Bay, Crystal River, Citrus County, Florida USA. (Carol Grant)

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