Attempts to feed manatees have failed so far, but efforts to stop hunger will continue.

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Attempts to feed hungry manatees seem to have failed so far, as large marine mammals refuse to recognize floating lettuce as food.

State and Federal Wildlife Authority Last year, after an unprecedented number of deaths, mostly from hunger, we took the unusual step of feeding manatees last month. The cause was the loss of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon, primarily due to contaminated spills from farms and cities.

But so far, manatees have ignored the lettuce provided to them, said Ron Meditch, leader of the Endangered Species Management Division of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, on Thursday’s call with reporters. Said at the meeting.

He said he may have eaten lettuce when no one was watching, but so far no lettuce consumption has been observed.

“At this point, we haven’t recorded any animals foraging lettuce,” he said. “We are not always everywhere to see it. We come back from time to time, and not everything we have provided is there, but we eat it. No animals are recorded. “

A record 1,101 manatees died last year, most of them due to starvation in the Indian River Lagoon area, according to the State Wildlife Commission.With the state last November Federal authorities Set the integration command to deal with Manatees Increased patrols to strengthen rescue operations for dead, suffering manatees, and setting up a system to feed them.

Patrick Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club, has blamed the federal government for bureaucratic delays in the failure of previous programs.

He said the State Wildlife Commission wanted to start a feeding program a few months ago, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service hesitated to approve it for months. He said the program could have been ready in August and could pursue more options to feed them if the federal government moved faster.

“I don’t know how frustrating I am because of the delay in the service decision,” he said. “Before we reached this point, we could have tried and experimented with so many things.”

For example, the current program seeks to supply them near the intake of the Florida Power & Light Plant in Cape Canaveral. The factory’s stocking zone, far from the land, was home to far more manatees and needed to be planned for feeding operations.

They could also experiment with different types of food and set up feeding operations in other areas, he said.He said he was “very supportive” in the feeding program, but he Federal governmentThe delay made it difficult to succeed.

Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, defended the pace of the program.

“Supplementary feeding to wild marine mammals has never been attempted,” he said in an email. “Therefore, there was substantial discussion and months of planning needed to make sure that doing so was likely to be beneficial rather than harmful.”

He said biologists needed to evaluate ideas, evaluate locations, get food, establish logistics, and make sure everything was in compliance with the law.

“While a large-scale operational plan was underway, federal and state government leadership weighed the policies and legal implications of such unprecedented efforts,” he said. “Within just a few days after the green light, staff from the newly established Joint Unified Command will begin executing the plan and within a few days will set up a temporary response field station at FPL’s Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center. raised.”

One obstacle to feeding them has been a warm winter so far. It allowed the manatees to disperse and gave them more options for finding their own food.Manatees will be concentrated nearby as the weather cools in the next few days, according to people familiar with the matter. Hot waterIt makes it easier to try to provide food, such as near the discharge zone of a power plant.

“This is a time when manatees are restricted from moving because they challenge the lowest temperatures, stay near warm waters, and can’t venture to find food,” said Dr. Martine de Wit. I am. A veterinarian examining the state’s dead manatees.

“When we enter winter, we are very concerned that many of these animals will enter the season in sub-best conditions, and we have already found carcasses with high-level findings of tissue atrophy that indicate starvation. . “

Mr. Meditch said he knew from the beginning that getting lettuce could be difficult and that various techniques were being tested.

“We started offering lettuce in a floating form,” he said. “At this point, the animals don’t recognize it as a food source. It wasn’t a complete shock to us. From some of the experts talking to us, the animals were rehab, they were it. Will serve lettuce for up to a week before being taken. “

He said various methods have been tried and he expects to eventually start eating lettuce.

“As we adapt, we lettuce In many ways, it’s not just floating, it’s sinking into the water column, “he said. At some point, I’m sure you’ll find a trigger that works. ”

Want to help Florida manatees?Don’t feed yourself

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