Cold snap could lead to record manatee deaths, 10 in Indian River County

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The first-of-the year cold snap has led to what will likely be a record number of manatee deaths this month in the state of Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a preliminary report of 77 cold-related manatee deaths through Jan. 23, 10 of which were in Indian River County.

If that number holds up after final review it will surpass the previous record of 56 set last year. Not all contact with manatees have been to pick up carcasses. SeaWorld, working in concert with the FWC, has been involved with six manatee rescues over the last two weeks, including four over the weekend in Indian River County.

A mother and calf rescued Friday are reported to be doing fine by SeaWorld officials, but a pair rescued on Saturday and sent to Miami are on antibiotics suffering from what appears to be cold-related blood infections.

“They are hanging in there,” said Cristina Rodriguez of the Miami Seaquarium said Monday. “It is most likely because of the cold, an infection is a sign of cold stress. We will be observing them day by day.”Rodriguez said veterinarians estimate the calf to be two to three weeks old and was the first for the mother thought to be seven years old.The rescues were initiated on Friday when as many as 14 manatees were observed in a canal that runs parallel between Calcutta and Nassau drives near the Vero Beach Country Club. It took rescuers more than three hours to rescue one mother and her calf on Friday just as darkness fell.”They are doing very well,” said Jon Peterson, Supervisor of Animal Care at SeaWorld of the first pair rescued. “Mom is eating and the baby is nursing and that is a very good sign.” Peterson said the mother was an adult and the calf was under a year.Another SeaWorld team returned to Indian River County on Saturday for the second rescue. The mother and calf had moved one canal over Peterson said.

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