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Fewer manatee deaths this year attributed to seagrass bed recovery in the Indian River Lagoon

David Hinkle/USFWS

Manatee mortality rates in Florida seem to be slowing after a record-breaking amount of manatees died in recent years.

442 manatee deaths were recorded this year between January and the start of September. That’s down a couple hundred from the 5-year average for the same time period.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Veterinarian Martine DeWit handles necropsies for dead sea cows across the state. She says that while deaths are slowing this year, threats to manatees haven’t disappeared entirely.

“We still see the usual concerns like watercraft collisions," she said. "Those have always been one of the main threats to the manatee populations statewide.”

DeWit says that one of the main reasons for fewer deaths in 2023 is a partial recovery of seagrass beds in the Indian River Lagoon.

Dead or injured manatees can be reported to F-W-C through their wildlife alert hotline at 888-404-3922.

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Julia Cooper - WLRN