Record year for manatee deaths caused by boats, watercraft, Florida wildlife officials say

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Wildlife experts say more manatees were killed by boaters in Florida this year than in any other.

At a time when boaters are supposed to slow down, wildlife experts say some aren't following the rules, with deadly results.

"We are the ones that are out there actually recovering carcasses," said marine mammal biologist Nadia Gordon.

Gordon works at the manatee critical care facility at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.

“What we do is a variety of rescues, whether it’s watercraft, cold stress, even if it’s something natural, we step in and rescue the manatees,” Gordon said.

Despite having a couple more days to go in the year, Florida has already passed 2018's record of manatee deaths.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says last year, 125 manatees were killed by boat, and so far this year, 129 manatees were killed.

Gordon says they’re able to identify a manatee by the scars on its body. Crevice, who is a 9-foot-long manatee weighing over 900 pounds, was brought to the facility last year after suffering from cold stress syndrome.

“Sixty-eight degrees is the temperature for manatees. If it gets lower than that, it’s kind of like frostbite for the extremities, and their body can shut down, and they can starve and die,” said Gordon.

Unlike other manatees, Crevice is tagged and will remain at the critical care facility until he is released back into the wild.

“Here in Jacksonville, we do have manatee signs out there, and it’ll say, "'Slow, no wake,’” said Gordon.

Gordon says even though manatees are no longer listed as endangered, they still face many dangers.

About the Author