Scientists think red tide may have killed a manatee found in Bradenton canal

A dead manatee washed up near the Bradenton shore Sunday.
A dead manatee washed up near the Bradenton shore Sunday.

After a dead manatee’s body washed up in a Bradenton canal over Labor Day weekend, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say the death is suspected to be caused by red tide.

Sunday, John Williams, a Trailer Estates resident, told Spectrum Bay News 9 he was walking his dog when he saw a small manatee “pushing” something big.

“I looked a little closer and it was another manatee just floating on top of the water,” Williams told Bay News 9.

When FWC got the information about the dead manatee, a team from Mote Marine Laboratory went to the scene and recovered the manatee’s body, Melody Kilborn, public information coordinator for FWC, said in an email Tuesday.

The “very decomposed” adult female manatee’s body was removed from the canal, according to Michelle Kerr, spokeswoman for FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

The manatee was taken to the institute and a necropsy was performed Tuesday morning, Kerr said.

A dead manatee washed up near the Bradenton shore Sunday. Angie Angers - Spectrum Bay News 9

The cause of death is suspected to be red tide but results of the necropsy with the exact cause could take more than a week to receive, said Kilborn.

It’s one more in a growing tally of red tide suspected manatee deaths.

FWC tracks red tide-related manatee deaths. As of Aug. 24, there were 115 manatees believed to be killed by red tide; 30 were positively identified red tide deaths while red tide was suspected in 85 deaths.

Just two manatee deaths connected to red tide as of the Aug. 24 report were in Manatee County. With the latest manatee found Sunday, that number would increase to three. The official report is expected to be update Wednesday, Kerr said.

Preliminary manatee mortality reports from FWC indicate a total of 575 manatee deaths in 2018 as of Aug. 24. Sixteen of those dead manatees were recovered in Manatee County.

Prior to Sunday’s discovery, the most recent dead manatee recorded in the county was on Aug. 21 in Cortez; it was verified, but the body was never recovered.

Watercraft was determined responsible for about 14 percent of the overall deaths.

Tuesday, Mote Marine Laboratory recovered two more dead manatees, one near Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and another in Venice near Fisherman’s Wharf Marina, according to Stephannie Kettle, Mote’s public relations manager.

A sea turtle was also recovered from Holmes Beach on Tuesday, she said.

Despite the rising death toll, some manatees are being saved.

Venice police told WFLA News Channel 8 a distressed manatee was found in the Intracoastal Waterway near the Venice Avenue boat ramp Sunday. A few nearby civilians helped a Marine Unit officer keep the manatee calm and it’s head above water until Mote Marine Laboratory and FWC officials arrived.

The manatee was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation, according to WFLA.

Over the weekend, five manatees died in the Venice and Nokomis area, Master Police Officer Paul Joyce of the Marine Unit told WFLA.

If you see a sick, stranded, distressed or dead manatees or other marine mammals. call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.