One Hundred Lost 'tees and Counting

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s research institute said today that over 100 manatee carcasses were documented in Florida waters following the cold snap during the first half of January.  A full 77 of the deaths are currently attributed to cold stress with several losses of  perinatal (or newborn) calves.   This count beats last year’s all-time-high loss of ‘tees from cold stress of 56; and it’s only January.  Unfortunately this number will rise as more carcasses are pulled in and necropsied so the full impact of the event on the population probably won’t be clear for a few weeks still to come.

While these numbers were more or less expected because of the extraordinary cold it’s always a blow to lose individuals in a relatively small population, even to natural causes and weather events.   I can only hope that our red-tide season is a mild one this year and that human-caused problems like watercraft strikes and entanglement are overall lower numbers.

Speaking of entanglement, I spent two hours today out in the lagoon cutting enormous rats nests of monofilament out of shoreline mangroves. The biggest mess I found was roughly the size of a basketball, stuck inbetween black mangrove and Brazilian pepper.  Unfortunately I wasn’t going slowly enough and managed to hook myself on rusted barbs embedded in the mess.  As a result I had to get a tetanus shot today at the local office.  Not exactly the worst experience of my life, but it certainly made me reflect for a moment on the situation entangled animals (fish, waterfowl, pelicans, and manatees alike) find themselves in out in the wild when they run across discarded fishing line.

If you’re an angler be sure to look for the monofilament recycling bins that dot Florida’s coasts.  (And learn more:  FishingLineRecycling.org)

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