One Dead Manatee
Cold stress syndrome in manatees is a series of physiological symptoms and diseases that can be triggered in cold water. Studies show that water that dips into the 60s can dampen manatees' metabolism, making them lose weight and weakening their immune system. In Sesuit Harbor last week, water temperatures hovered at 65 degrees, and Dennis's body temperature Saturday was almost 15 degrees below normal.
That's why wildlife rescue groups decided to catch Dennis, take him south to rehabilitate, and release him in the warm waters of his native habitat, Florida. But he died Sunday after a 27-hour journey by truck to a rehabilitation Center at SeaWorld in Orlando.
"If this animal had been caught sooner, the prognosis would have been better," said Bob Bonde, a biologist with the US Geological Survey in Florida who has studied manatees for 30 years. "I think in hindsight, with cold-stressed animals, it would be a good idea to get them to a facility locally before having them undergo transit."
The US Fish and Wildlife program rescues about 50 manatees a year, mostly from Florida's coastal waters, as winter approaches. Most survive, said Bonde, but they are not forced to make such a long trip.