TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The supplemental feeding program for Florida’s manatees in Brevard County is expected to end this week as water temperatures continue to warm and manatees are dispersing from their winter sites.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Unified Joint Response team held an update on Wednesday and announced the expected transition.
Efforts at the site, located at the Florida Power & Light plant in Brevard County, are winding down.
Branch chief for provisioning, Ron Mezich, said the past week has seen fewer manatees at the site as the weather warms up. He said the initial steps of demobilizing the site have begun.
Mezich confirmed the first cooler officials were using to refrigerate lettuce to feed manatees was removed late last week and another is expected to be removed this week. He said one cooler will remain on site a little longer.
The last shipment of lettuce, totaling 8,000 lbs, will arrive this week. Mezich said that will likely be the last day of supplemental feeding, unless the weather drastically changes.
Mezich said they made the decision to stop feeding by looking at water temperatures, manatee behavior and numbers at the site and other warm water sites and the long range weather forecast and it’s affect on water temperatures.
A total of 193,200 lbs of lettuce has been fed to manatees on Florida’s east coast by officials to date.
Though feeding efforts will likely stop, Mezich said officials will remain on site for at least two weeks to watch for manatee attendance and do health checks on animals that remain.
After those two weeks, officials will reassess if they want to continue daily site assessments or cut back to several days a week.
FWC reports 441 manatees have died in the state as of March 18.