A bad year for manatees

May 8, 2012

Paul Janensch (2012-01-23) 

TREASURE COAST (wqcs) - Intro: The two big threats to manatees are cold weather and us, as Paul Janensch tells us in this Treasure Coast Essay.
2011 was another bad year for manatees in Florida and on the Treasure Coast. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 453 manatees died statewide. Fifty-two of them were on the Treasure Coast. That's less than in 2010 but more than in 2009. Many of the deaths were attributed to the unseasonably cold weather in the months at the beginning and end of each year. When the temperature stays below 68 degrees, a manatee's metabolism slows down, and it doesn't eat enough. Under normal conditions, manatees spend 6 to 8 hours a day grazing on plant life in shallow waters. They surface for air about every 15 minutes. Mature manatees measure up to 13 feet and weigh up to 13-hundred pounds. Their paddle-like flippers pull them along at about 4 miles an hour. The other major threat to manatees are boats - or, specifically, propellers. Manatees are considered an endangered species, and boaters are required by law to observe speed limit and no-entry signs posted in manatee zones. When you go out on the Indian River Lagoon, watch for half-moon swirls on the surface. Consider them as footprints left by a manatee. Proceed with caution. It's bad enough that manatees must deal with the cold. Let's not add to their troubles. For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.
Outro: Treasure Coast essayist Paul Janensch was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
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