The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has released preliminary mortality rates for manatees. The Commission has found that 505 manatees died between January 1, 2023 to November 24, 2023. The last estimate of statewide numbers for the 2021-2022 period is 8,350–11,730 manatees, with 3,960–5,420 on the west coast and 3,940–6,980 on the east coast.

Given the number of deaths reported it is time for the public to be aware the part they need to play in the conservation of these mammals. One way is to be aware that November is the time they begin migrating to warmer inland waters. When coastal water temperatures drop to 70 degrees, these tropical marine mammals move inland in search of warmer waters. At 68 degrees or lower the manatees experience digestive issues that can be lethal.

These waters are generally found inland at freshwater springs and in the out-flow of power plants. Other manatees migrate southward long distances through the Intracoastal Waterway. Many seasonal manatee protection zones go into effect November 15th.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends the following ways that the citizens of Florida can keep making a difference for manatees:

Watch for these large aquatic mammals as they search for warmer waters to help them survive winter’s cold, which they generally find in freshwater springs and the outflow of power plants.

Wear polarized sunglasses to spot them moving, grazing and resting in the water. Keep a lookout for the circular “footprints” they leave on the surface of the water.

Slow down when boating and follow posted manatee zones.

Observe manatees from a distance to limit disturbance.

Report injured, entangled, orphaned or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on your cellphone or text

Continue to support the manatee decal and license plate, and tell everyone how the decal and license plate support the FWC’s manatee conservation efforts.

Photo courtesy of FWC

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