Manatees face trouble during winter cold

Winter cold has been especially deadly for some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents: manatees.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Service says 35 of the marine mammals died last month from cold water, that's five times as many as last January.

“When water temperatures drop below 68 degrees, manatees can suffer from cold stress,” Michelle Kerr, from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute, explained.

Kerr said the cold can kill a manatee in days or even hours. The animals get extremely thin, their organs begin to fail, and their skin can start to come off.

Kerr said boaters and people by the water should watch for manatees who are listing or floating in the water. She also added that affected animals may appear white around their nose and just generally lethargic.

Kerr said anyone who spots a manatee in trouble should call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.