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Colder weather could impact manatees as population declines

Posted at 8:30 PM, Jan 25, 2022

FORT MYERS, Fla. — This cold weather isn’t just impacting people, but it's also affecting manatees too. Some believe this is could be concerning considering Florida Fish and Wildlife just released a report that manatees died at a record rate in 2021.

Water guide Tim Martell explained manatees start to move to warmer waters when the weather gets colder because they don't have a lot of body fat to help stay warm. Martell said manatees are vulnerable to hypothermia just like people.

In his opinion, the water temperature isn’t cold enough yet to be too concerned, but cold snaps can cause manatees to die in masses.

He fears if we don’t do our part to help the manatees now, it could ultimately impact our local ecology and even our economy.

“Millions of tourists come to Florida every year in hopes of seeing a manatee. It brings in millions of millions of dollars to tour companies, restaurants, hotels, and all of the other supporting businesses as well.”

Martell explained manatees have four main threats which include cold-water events, water quality, habitat loss, and boaters.

He said one way people can help, especially this time of the year, is to follow speed signs while boating as manatees move from the Gulf to inland areas as they look for warmer water.