Florida Manatees Suffering in Unusually Frigid Waters

Photo: USFWS Endangered Species / CC

As intense winter storms are adding a chill to many cities around the world, some animals are having trouble coping with the cold as well. For the past few weeks, the well-being of aquatic animals in Florida has been concerning wildlife officials as hundreds of manatees have been found dead, having perished due to the unusually frigid conditions. Recently, manatees have been observed fleeing the cool waters in the Gulf of Mexico and seeking refuge from the dropping temps.
According to a report from the Associated Press, hundreds of manatees have been found to be "lolling around" by the hundreds in canals warmed by the runoff from a nearby power-plant. "It's like a warm bathtub for them," said environmental specialist Wendy Anastasiou. And it's no wonder by the animals are seeking refuge from the unusually cool waters of the Gulf; Manatees are not adapted to handle such temperature extremes.

So far, a disturbingly high number of manatees have been killed by the chilly weather. The AP takes a closer look at the troubling figures:

Cold weather can weaken manatees' immune systems and eventually kill them. State officials said 2010 has been a deadly year for the beloved animals: between Jan. 1 and Dec. 17, 246 manatees died from so-called "cold stress." During the same time period in 2009, only 55 manatees died from the cold. In 2008, only 22 manatees succumbed to chilly temperatures.

Manatee deaths documented from Jan. 1 through Dec. 5 are nearly double the five-year average for that time period, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics.

But manatees aren't the only ones stunned by the chill. Florida Today reports that 20 sea turtles had to be rescued from the cold waters and sent to rehabilitation centers. "To have an event like this so early gives me a feeling that this is going to be a cold winter. I don't think this will be the last cold-stunned turtle event this season," said Bill Habich of Florida Fish and Wildlife.

More on December's Winter Chill
More Brits Die from Cold Than Siberians - Utilities and Government to Blame?

Related Content on Treehugger.com