Record Number of Manatees Gather in Florida State Park Amid Unprecedented Deaths
A cold snap drove Florida's struggling manatee population to Blue Spring State Park in record numbers this week.
On Tuesday, when the temperature of the St. Johns River dipped to a particularly chilly 59 degrees, Save the Manatee Club counted a staggering 664 sea cows gathered in the warm waters of the Volusia County spring.
"That's the coldest we've had so far this winter season," Cora Berchem, director of multi-media and research associate with the non-profit manatee protection organization, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. "The colder the river water gets, the more they need that warm spring water. That's what drives the manatees into Blue Spring."
Despite the large gathering, Florida's manatees are still in grave danger. At least 1,003 manatees—more than 10% of the state's estimated population—died from starvation in 2021 alone. In December, desperate environmental officials proposed the controversial solution of feeding the animals in some of Florida's hardest-hit areas.
Fortunately, the St. Johns River around Blue Spring currently has enough food to support the gentle giants.
"There's still plenty of vegetation along the river, so the manatees here are not affected by a shortage of food," Mona Russell, a ranger at Blue Spring State Park, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Russell credits a ban on aquatic herbicides in the Blue Spring region that has been in place for years.
WATCH: Good Samaritan Saves Manatee From Falling Victim to Toxic Seagrass
Warmer temperatures have made Blue Spring State Park a popular winter gathering spot for manatees. The Save the Manatee Club operates an underwater live feed, so people from all over the world can tune it to watch them go about their daily lives.
If you see a dead, sick, or injured manatee, you are asked to contact the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922 or by dialing #FWC on a cellphone. For more information as well as opportunities to help, visit MyFWC.com/Manatee.