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Rehabilitation centers are bracing as the record die-off of Florida manatees is projected to last for years

Dying Manatees-Florida
Rebecca Blackwell
An adult and young manatee swim together in a canal, Feb. 16, 2022, in Coral Gables, Fla. There are more than 80 rescued Florida manatees in rehabilitation centers across the U.S. as wildlife officials try to stem starvation deaths due to poor water quality.

Wildlife agencies say rehabilitation centers are bracing for more manatees in an unprecedented die-off that they continue to characterize as a long-term event.

Some 82 manatees are at 13 rehabilitation centers from Florida to Ohio. The number tracks closely with this time last year, when a record 1,100 manatees died in Florida.

Terri Calleson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the rehabilitation centers are working together to create more space.

“We have some with additional expansions coming over one year, two years and also five years. Because we expect this to be a prolonged event. So we’ve done a lot to prepare for that. We have some contingency sites.”

In recent weeks the wildlife agencies have coordinated what they are describing as large-scale rescue events for groups of distressed manatees, including in the Indian River Lagoon.