TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Wildlife officials have begun to feed manatees on Florida’s east coast, at a location near a Florida Power & Light power plant in Titusville.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Joint Unified Command expert panel updated media members regarding plans for its winter response on Wednesday.

According to Michelle Pasawicz with FWC, crews have begun providing lettuce from local south Florida farms at the site at the FP&L Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center.

Pasawicz said about 1,000-lbs of romaine lettuce has been fed to the mammals so far. She said it’s hard to gauge how much of that the manatees have eaten, but when officials attempt to clean up leftover vegetation, there hasn’t been much left.

“We did see that they were consuming it,” Pasawicz said.

The feeding is in response to an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event in the Indian River Lagoon due to loss of seagrass, a manatee’s food source.

She said they are seeing anywhere from 9-33 manatees per day at the feeding site, and a ballpark of 50-100 manatees at the warm water discharge site of the power plant.

Officials also said 105 manatees were rescued statewide in 2022 and capacity for the animals at rehabilitation facilities remains an issue.

Currently, there are 76 manatees in rehabilitation, with 64 of those being here in Florida.

It’s important to note it is illegal for anyone outside of wildlife officials to feed manatees. Manatees are protected on both the state and federal level.

If you see a dead or injured manatee, contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC. Cell phone users can also call *FWC or #FWC.