The nationwide winter cold wave has taken a toll on one of the Gulf Coast's most interesting creatures - the gentle, half-ton aquatic mammal believed to have inspired legends about mermaids.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission data show that
Florida manatees have died in near-record numbers since New Year's Day.
The total was 163 by Feb. 25, according to data posted Wednesday. But figures posted even earlier that month already showed the second-highest total manatee deaths on record for the first two months of the year.
They aren't the only Gulf Coast creatures whose deaths have been
notable of late. Baby and adult bottlenose dolphins also have been
dying in large numbers from an unknown cause.
But the manatees included only seven babies - about an average number for this time of year.