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ZUPPA, CHRIS | Tampa Bay Times

FL - A record 1101 Florida manatees died in 2021. When will it end?

It’s been clear for months that 2021 would be the deadliest year on record for Florida’s manatees. When the death count surpassed 1,000 in November, experts sounded the alarm, fearing the toll the winter months ahead would continue to inflict.

TAMPA, Fla. — It’s been clear for months that 2021 would be the deadliest year on record for Florida’s manatees. When the death count surpassed 1,000 in November, experts sounded the alarm, fearing the toll the winter months ahead would continue to inflict.

The final death count is in — and it’s grim. The Sunshine State recorded 1,101 manatees deaths last year, officially the worst year on record.

Last year’s fatalities are nearly double the death toll in 2020, which totaled 637 manatees lost, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data. It’s by far the most deaths since 830 manatees died in 2013.

“I’ve been studying manatees for around 50 years, and I am totally shocked and flabbergasted by this number,” said James “Buddy” Powell, president of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and executive director of its research institute.

When he first started studying manatees in the 1960s, the team estimated there were 1,000 living manatees statewide. Now, last year’s death toll surpasses that.

“It’s really disturbing and really sad,” said Cynthia Stringfield, a veterinarian at ZooTampa.

She said the zoo’s David A. Straz, Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center has been working hard to keep up with the increase in the number of sick manatees coming in, and they’re seeing more calves than usual.

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