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Record number of manatees died in Florida last year, many due to 'cold stress'

January 6, 2011 | 12:44 pm

Manatees

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A record number of manatees died in Florida in 2010, and officials blame many of the deaths on the year's unusually cold weather.

Statistics released this week from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission show that 767 manatees died last year. Of those deaths, 279 were attributed to "cold stress."

Cold weather also contributed to the deaths of 21 of 96 newborn manatees.

State veterinarian Matrine DeWit says it's the worst year for manatees since the department began keeping records in the 1970s.

Manatees are most at risk when the waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean dip below 68 degrees. If they can't find warmer water from natural springs or power plants, they can suffer lesions and risk infections.

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-- Tamara Lush / Associated Press

Photo: A female manatee and her calf  relax in Florida's Crystal River in 2005. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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