With warm weather, manatee feeding program to end

State and federal biologists have been feeding manatees in the Indian River Lagoon since mid-December to stave off starvation. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

As warmer weather comes to Florida, wildlife agencies say they are phasing out an emergency program to provide supplemental food for manatees in the Indian River Lagoon. Wildlife officials plan to discontinue the program in mid-April, after providing about 200,000 pounds of lettuce at a Cape Canaveral power plant, where the manatees gather in the warm waters during the winter. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began a joint operation in December to provide food for the manatees, which were dying in record numbers as a result of seagrass loss due to pollution. With warming weather, officials say the manatees (Trichechus manatus) are finding their own food, but wildlife agencies plan to continue to monitor them and have not ruled out providing lettuce again next winter.

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