The freezing of the Southeast has taken a heavy toll on Florida's manatee population.
Also know as sea cows, manatees are the gentle giants of Florida's salt-water estuaries and ocean. They are a considerable tourist attraction as well.
Yet manatees are also listed as being endangered both by the U.S. government and Florida. That is why the loss of even a few animals is alarming to wildlife managers.
But this time the cold weather that struck Florida has taken heavy toll on the marine mammal's population. Since January 1 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has found more than 100 dead manatees including 77 of them linked directly to the cold weather for which manatees are very vulnerable.
The 100 figure also far surpasses the previous single year cold-stress death record. That record was set only last year with 56 recorded manatee deaths.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn