Frigid weather was largely to blame for making 2011 the second-deadliest year on record for Florida’s endangered manatees. Of the 453 dead manatees recovered in state waters, state wildlife biologists determined that just over a quarter of them were killed by “cold stress.’’ It was the third year in a row that bad weather helped drive up the annual death total.
In 2010, a record high 766 manatees were found dead, with at least 282 killed by cold water. In 2009, 429 carcasses were found, with 56 deaths blamed on cold weather. That’s a troubling jump from a five-year average of 30 cold-related deaths, said Gil McRae, director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
“We are concerned about the number of manatee deaths the past three years, including those resulting from exposure to cold weather,” said McRae. “Over the next few years, we will use data from monitoring programs to better understand any long-term implications for the population.’’