Cold endangers manatees

Fort Pierce, FL – The cold weather on the Treasure Coast has been hard on all of us - especially on our friends, the manatees. For example, a dead manatee was picked up north of the bridge from Fort Pierce to North Hutchinson Island. No fresh propeller wounds were found on the animal, and so the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concluded that the death was due to the cold. Several other dead manatees - probably killed by the cold water -- were reported elsewhere in the Indian River lagoon. At the beginning and end of 2010, cold weather killed an 279 manatees statewide and 52 along the Treasure Coast, along with tens of thousands of fish. If the water temperature stays below 68 degrees, manatees can suffer cold-stress syndrome and die. Why are we so fond of these large, gray aquatic mammals with paddle-shaped tails? They are also called sea cows -- not as appealing a name as manatee. But like land cows, they are big, gentle plant-eaters who pose no threat to us. To report a sick, injured or dead manatee, call the conservation commission's 24-hour hotline, which is 888-404-FWCC. That's 888-404-FWCC. For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.

Treasure Coast essayist Paul Janensch was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University in Connectic