Florida's record number of manatee deaths in 2010 - 699 - were largely blamed on the severe cold last winter. And that count could rise with more cold temperatures expected next week.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said Friday that 2010 saw an unprecedented die-off for the endangered mammals. Last winter's freezing temperatures gave many manatees an acute cold shock, like severe hypothermia, that killed them faster than in previous winters, said Martine deWit, commission veterinarian. Also, the cold weather spread as far south as the Everglades and Florida Keys, areas where manatees usually don't see many cold-related deaths.
The cold was specifically blamed for 244 of the sea-cow deaths. The cause of another 271, however, couldn't conclusively be determined or the carcasses were not recovered. This month, the state hasn't attributed any manatee deaths to cold, but deWit said it's still early in the season.
State officials are trying to improve manatee survival by improving access to warm-water sites. Earlier this month, a gate to the spring at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park was reopened, allowing manatees admittance for the first time in 30 years.
Underscoring what's at stake in the long-running climate talks, NASA reported that the January-November 2010 global temperatures were the warmest in the 131-year record. Its data indicated the year would likely end as the warmest on record, or tied with 2005 as the warmest.
Tell that to the 244+ dead Manatees this year, not to mention those that will follow them next year. Consider this an open thread.