What is killing manatees across Tampa Bay?

Manatees are mysteriously washing up dead

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — All throughout the Tampa Bay area manatees are washing up dead and scientists don’t know why—the pattern remains a mystery.

Dave Plank brought his family down here from Michigan to see a sight unique to the sunshine state, the beloved manatee.

“Their snouts are touching one another, much like the dolphins….they’re communicating,” he observed.

Many have seen this shocking trend—manatees washing ashore.

On Saturday, Charles Martin spotted a one clinging to life in Englewood. Thankfully it survived, but not all do.

John Izmirlian saw a dead manatee in Terra Ceia bay on February 11.

“If you don’t know what’s killing something then you can’t help control it and you’ll lose the species eventually,” said Jamie Woodlee with the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach.

Between January 1 and March 5, eleven manatees were found dead in southwest Florida.

The culprit could be red tide, officials say, which has been plaguing the area in recent months.

“They’ll have seizures, they’ll sometimes do barrel rolls and things almost like they don’t know which way is up and they don’t know how to surface,” said Gretchen Lovewell with the Mote Marine Lab Stranding investigations Program.

Florida Fish and Wildlife conducted necropsies on the animals, but it may take time before the cause of death is determined.

This worries Dave Plank.

“I don’t know if its nature saying we’re doing something wrong or maybe just nature itself saying its time to call it quits,” he says.

Officials say red tide is a naturally forming phenomenon, but if it does poison a manatee, scientists can save them if they reach them quick enough. So if you ever spot a manatee in distress, call FWC immediately.

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