Manatees seek warmer waters as Bay Area experiences coolest temperatures of season

Across Florida, residents are waking up to some of the coldest temperatures of the winter. In Tampa alone, it was in the 40s before sunrise. Further north in Crystal River, it was in the 30s.

"It’s the coolest we’ve been thus far this winter," says FOX 13’s meteorologist Tony Sadiku, "but that wind is making a difference…especially on exposed skin."

With that said, not all humans are feeling the cold. Manatees are too.  

It’s already been a tough time for manatees. The population has been suffering from low food sources and dying at high rates. 

Manatee feeding experiment starts slowly as cold looms

Even though they look big and bulky, they actually don’t have blubber, like say a seal, which makes them extremely vulnerable in cold water. That’s why getting to areas like the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach or in natural springs where the water is a constant 72 degrees is paramount for a manatee’s survival when the weather turns cold.

Too much time spent in too cold of water and a manatee can develop what’s called "cold stress syndrome." In fact, just last week, ZooTampa released a young manatee that was found last year suffering from cold-stress syndrome.

"Manatees don’t actually have a lot of fat to protect them from cold water," explained Molly Lippincott with ZooTampa. "Anything below 72 degrees, they can actually start to get ill and experience what’s called cold stress syndrome. That’s basically like a hypothermia or frostbite. Any animal that’s in cold water for long can develop pneumonia, have cold stress lesions and develop all sorts of problems from the cold water."

ZooTampa says they took in quite a few manatees with cold stress syndrome last year and will be releasing them in the upcoming weeks.

That’s good because they expect that more manatees in the coming weeks will need help, so they’re hoping to have space freed up very soon. Right now, they have a record amount of manatees that they’re caring for.

Four young manatees flown from Florida to Ohio for treatment

If you spot a manatee that looks like it’s not doing well, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials ask that you call them immediately at 1-888-404-3922.