Florida Mulls The Unthinkable: Feeding Starving Manatees In The Wild

"As Florida's record manatee die-off nears 1,000 victims so far this year, the state's top wildlife official asked lawmakers for $7 million more in 2022 to save starving sea cows and suggested that his agency temporarily do what would today get you a $500 fine and/or up to 60 days in prison: tossing them a few scraps of leafy blades.

"There's a possibility some level of supplemental feeding might be in order," Gil McRae, director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service's research institute in St. Petersburg, told state lawmakers Wednesday.

Recuperating juvenile manatees feast on Romaine lettuce, at the height of the 2021 manatee die-off in Florida SeaWorld was going through 275 cases - 24 to a case- of Romaine lettuce a week. State biologist are considering feeding manatees in the wild to prevent starvation this winter.

'Those of you that have paid attention to feeding wildlife know that almost universally, it does more harm than good,' McRae explained to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. 'But we know this is a very particular situation where manatees are attracted to these warm water sites.'"

Jim Waymer and Max Chesnes report for Florida Today October 14, 2021.

Source: Florida Today, 10/18/2021