Manatee mortalities skyrocket

Cold weather of 2010 may be to blame in manatee deaths, scientists say

An unprecedented number of manatees have died in Florida since the beginning of the year, constituting a loss of 6 percent of the state’s overall manatee population in just six weeks, according to a press release from the national nonprofit Save the Manatee Club.

More than 300 manatee deaths were reported between Jan. 1 and Feb. 12 and scientists say the most likely culprit is the unseasonably cold weather. Of the deaths, 167 are believed to have been related to cold stress. Another 116 of the deaths have been labeled as undetermined, but many of those likely were caused by cold stress as well due to the location and timing.

The plummeting numbers come on the heels of a record mortality rate for the sea creatures in 2009.