The winter migration of manatees into South Florida accelerated over the past week, as the endangered mammals sought refuge from cooling temperatures to the north.
An aerial survey in Broward County on Wednesday found 213 manatees, of which 145 were clustered in water warmed by discharges from the Florida Power & Light plant located just west of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Nineteen were seen in the Dania Cut-Off Canal, 12 near the FPL plant at Port Everglades and the rest scattered among the Intracoastal Waterway and the various branches of the New River.
Palm Beach County found just 14 manatees, including 11 adults and three calves, in an aerial survey Saturday by Mote Marine Laboratory on behalf of FPL. Most were in the Intracoastal Waterway, with no particular area having more than any other. The survey was not completed because of bad weather, so the total is lower than it should have been.
Manatees, which are extremely sensitive to cold, have learned to find warm water refuges around power plants, such as those in Fort Lauderdale and Riviera Beach.
Although the total count is the highest for the season, it’s far below the peak of about 900 or 1,000 that will likely be counted in January, judging from past year’s counts.