SPRING HILL – According to the latest Data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), only one manatee died in Hernando County last year, but just in the last thirty days, five manatees have been found dead in a small stretch of the Mudd River.
Linda Farmer contacted R News after finding the dead mammals floating in the area of Mary's Fish Camp. Farmer says she has a few theories as to what is causing the deaths but until an investigation is complete, nothing can be done to prevent additional fatalities.
Farmer believes the cold temperatures are forcing manatees into shallower water, which puts the animals at higher risk of being struck by boaters. "I believe sewage runoff could be leading to algae blooms, which reduces vegetation that manatees depend on for food. They are dredging the Mudd River which could be stirring up chemicals or other natural sediments that increase nitrate levels," says Farmer.
Necropsies are being conducted and testing continues on the Mudd River but it could be a while before all the results are in.
Since 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis invested over $1.8 billion to help clean up Florida's waterways, and an additional $50 million has been pledged to help reduce manatee mortality rates.
2023 saw the lowest number of manatee deaths since 2017, with only 593 fatalities.