TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The cold weather in the Tampa Bay area isn’t just impacting people, but it can be extremely harmful to manatees. Experts at ZooTampa said it’s called “cold stress.” Lisa Smith with the zoo said it’s the manatees form of frostbite.
“You’ll see really bad lesions all over their bodies. Some whitening of their skin.” She told 8 On Your Side that manatees can only survive in waters over 68 degrees, so anything below that can become a serious problem. “They have to migrate into warm water sites, so that’s why if you’re around locally you’ll see them in power plants and springs and if they don’t make it there that’s when they’ll get the cold stress,” said Smith.
Whenever ZooTampa receives a sick manatee, they’re put in 80-degree pools and given food and medicine.
“If they come in young, they have to stay here until they’re about 600 pounds which is about 2 years old. So some of the cases that we got in last year are just reaching that mark this year and they’re getting ready for released,” Smith said.
She said it’s important for everyone to pitch in and help save these manatees. If you see a sick one on the waterways, immediately call Florida Fish and Wildlife.