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2 manatee deaths reported in same spot

<i>WFTS</i><br/>Two manatees were found dead right in front of Mary’s Fish Camp.
Willingham, James
Two manatees were found dead right in front of Mary’s Fish Camp.

By Erik Waxler

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    WEEKI WACHEE, Florida (WFTS) — Since 1946, Mary’s Fish Camp has been a great spot to cast a line.

“I love this place and the people that work here,” said longtime fisherman Chip Baldasare.

It’s also a popular place to rent a kayak to explore the waterways in Weeki Wachee.

Assistant Manager Crisiti Glassen said that usually includes seeing manatees.

“They always come back, and they always tell us the stories. That’s the best part about the job.”

But in January, two of those manatees were found dead right in front of Mary’s.

On January 5, a kayak attendant took a video of one thrashing in the water before dying.

Then, Wednesday, another manatee was found floating in the water.

“We took him down to the boat ramp. Set him there. And FWC came and got him,” said Glassen.

After a record 1100 Florida manatees died in 2021, the number has been dropping.

Last year 556 died, the lowest number since 2017.

Watercraft collisions are a top cause, but many died because red tide killed off their food source.

Destiny Williams and her sister are going paddle boarding, hoping to see more manatees.

She’s encountered them here before.

“There were like six, and I was on my paddle board, and I just floated with them. It was awesome,” said Williams.

Florida Fish and Wildlife said they are still investigating what might have caused the manatees to die.

“I guess they plan on giving it to the college kids so they can do research on them,” said Glassen.

Meanwhile, at nearby Roger’s Park, the health department issued a water quality advisory because testing on Friday showed a high level of fecal coliform bacteria. The advisory was since lifted on Thursday evening.

Linda Farmer shot a video showing a dark, murky substance in the normally clear water.

The park stayed open, but swimming isn’t recommended until the levels go down.

FWC did not say the manatee deaths were related to the water quality.

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