Wildlife officials are concerned that continuing habitat problems could lead to a decline in fertility for manatees in Florida.

Habitat Woes Could Affect Manatee Fertility In Florida

Wildlife officials are concerned that continuing habitat problems could lead to a decline in fertility for manatees in Florida.
Source: ZooTampa

Wildlife officials are concerned that continuing habitat problems could lead to a decline in fertility for manatees in Florida.

A record 1,101 sea cows died in the state last year, largely because of starvation, as poor water quality and algae blooms depleted seagrass beds in prime foraging areas such as the Indian River Lagoon.

As of Friday, 631 manatees had died in Florida waters this year, down from the 2021 pace but still well ahead of a five-year average. Biologists also are worried that continued stress on the manatees is likely affecting their reproductive health.

“You want to see a certain number of small calves, and we are really not seeing that this year as much as before,” said Martine deWit, a marine-mammal veterinarian for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Last winter, wildlife officials used a supplemental feeding program that provided lettuce to starving manatees along the state’s East Coast. Biologists are gathering data to see how well the feeding program worked and whether they will do it again this winter.

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“Whether the (death) numbers are going to be a record, I don’t think that really matters. This is something that is going to be long-lasting,” deWit said. “It’s going to have chronic health effects and reproductive effects. It’s going to be years before you can measure the real extent of what is happening right now.”

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