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Already struggling Florida manatee population hit hard by cold weather

** FILE **A Manatee swims at Blue Springs State Park in Orange City, Fla., in this Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006 file photo. Wildlife officials will consider moving the manatee off Florida’s endangered species list Wednesday and reclassify it in the lower category of threatened. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Florida manatees have already suffered the deadliest year on record, and now more gentle sea cows are dying from the cold weather.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says the cold snap appears to have already killed several manatees.
Staffers are working to recover the carcasses to confirm the cause of death.
The Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach is a special area for manatees to get warm in the discharge of the FPL power plant.
Manatees congregate at the Riviera Beach “Next Generation Clean Energy Center” every winter where the clean, warm water outflow of the power plant meet Lake Worth Lagoon.

FILE- This Dec. 28, 2010 photos shows a group of manatees in a canal where discharge from a nearby Florida Power & Light plant warms the water in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Florida wildlife officials say 538 manatees were found dead in the state’s waterways in 2017. That’s the third-highest annual death toll on record for the large marine mammals. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Meanwhile, the FWC has begun its feeding program to save the remaining manatees.
This has already been the deadliest year on record for manatees with 988 deaths through October 29th, but the death rate is expected to climb the next few months.
Wildlife officials say there will be less seagrass this winter for manatees to feed on.
State and federal officials are considering feeding the manatees non-native freshwater plants, but no decision has been made.
Manatees snowbird at power plants for warmth, like the FPL plant in Riviera Beach, because they like the warm water discharge.
Manatees die in water temps below 68 degrees. Before power plants, manatees hung out in warm springs, marshes and rivers but humans have blocked, drained or built around them making them inaccessible to the gentle sea cows.

Florida Manatees, who were just reclassified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from endangered to threatened in 2017, are dying in record numbers, approaching 1,000 this year.
We’ve heard cautionary tales of speeding boats, seen grisly propeller lacerations on manatee backs. Boaters still kill them in high numbers with grisly propeller lacerations, but that’s not the only cause.
The seagrasses that manatees eat have been destroyed by development and pollution.