Hundreds of manatees have been reported dead which has sparked fears among wildlife officials following the bizarre fatalities.
A rescue mission has been launched in response to the record number of deaths, which have already spiked to 575 this year.
State and federal officials aim to double the rescue and rehabilitation capacity before the sea cows congregate in warm waters in winter.
The deaths have mainly been associated with malnutrition, however, more than 80 are currently being treated for starvation and injuries linked to crashes with boats.
On Wednesday (June 15), experts said conferences have been underway to discuss the need to accommodate increasing numbers of ill manatees “in the years to come.”
They confirmed that they are still setting up equipment ahead of a heightened response when the mammals make their winter return, reports News4Jax.
Terri Calleson, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said 89 manatees are being cared for in facilities across the state.
“I’d really like to see … close to twice that if we can muster that,” he said.
“A lot of that depends on how critical (the condition of) the animals are.
“One critical animal that needs around-the-clock care can really tie up one whole pool until that animal reaches a point where it’s stable.”
Experts have warned people to keep an eye out for manatees while boating during the holidays.
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service have previously fed lettuce to the sea cows after they starved due to low water quality and algae blooms which had depleted seagrass beds.
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Officials said they may have to try the unusual method again with manatees who gather in the East Coast waters next winter.
Tom Reinert, of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, commented: “Animals that have made it through now, two winters of low food resources, will still be stressed.
“I expect potentially still-higher-than-normal mortalities next winter.”
It has been reported that agencies are working with multiple organisations including Seaworld and Walt Disney to help expand rehabilitation efforts.
“That’s really what it takes," added Calleson. "When you are dealing with 10,000-pound animals, it really does take a village to try to handle, care for and treat these animals.”
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