Manatee feeding effort ends

Biologists believe the mammals are in better health heading into this winter

After two winters of an experimental program to feed Florida manatees in the wild, wildlife agencies say they plan to discontinue the effort this winter. “After careful consideration, the agencies are not providing manatees with a supplemental food source at the beginning of the winter season,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced. “However, staff developed a contingency plan for supplemental feeding which they will implement if needed.”

Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) declined from a lack of native seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon, where they congregate in the winter. The situation prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare the die-off an Unusual Mortality Event. That declaration continues, but biologists determined that “there are currently no indications that manatees in this region are in poor or compromised body condition.”

Federal and state officials plan to continue to work with partners to monitor seagrass and manatee health conditions.

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Header Image: A Florida manatee feeds on lettuce provided as part of a feeding effort last winter. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission