Cold is taking its toll on South's wildlife : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

For educational purposes: "Cold is taking its toll on South's wildlife Eds: AMs. Edited for Texas interest; Version moving nationally By RON WORD= Associated Press Writer= JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Manatees and pelicans hit by frostbite, sea turtles nearly dead from the cold, fish and shrimp killed by plummeting water temperatures. All are among the casualties of the record-breaking cold that has settled in across the South, including the Texas Gulf Coast. ``It has been especially severe this year,'' said Cindy Mosling, founder of the Bird Emergency and Kare Sanctuary near Jacksonville, Fla. The hospital is caring for 50 pelicans with frostbite on their necks and feet, and ``there are 100 more birds I could go out and rescue if I had the space and time.'' The last two months of 2000 were the nation's coldest November-December period ever recorded, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The average temperature was 33.8 degrees. About 50 green sea turtles in Texas are being kept at three facilities: the Animal Rehabilitation Keep at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, the National Marine Fisheries Service lab in Galveston and Texas Parks and Wildlife's Coastal Conservation Association/Central Power and Light Marine Development Center. ``When it gets cold they become very lethargic and wash up onto the beach. If they stay in cold temperatures on shore for too long, they can die of exposure,'' Donna Shaver-Miller, Texas coordinator of the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, said in Tuesday's editions of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. While the Northeast had a big snowstorm, the South and the southern Plains were struck by devastating ice storms and unseasonable cold. Northern Louisiana got 4 inches of snow on New Year's Eve, its deepest accumulation in 15 years, and freezing temperatures were reported as far south as Collier County, across the Florida peninsula from Fort Lauderdale. Manatees, the endangered sea cows found in Florida's bays and rivers, have been especially hard hit. At Blue Spring State Park in central Florida, more than 80 manatees swam in during the New Year's weekend, fleeing the colder Saint Johns River to bask in 72-degree water flowing from a spring. Others have not been as lucky: Three manatees are being treated at SeaWorld in Orlando, and two others - Rocky and Frosty - are at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Rocky was lethargic, dehydrated and shivering Friday when rescuers spotted him in Tampa Bay, where the temperature was 55 degrees. Its tail had white splotches and lesions from frostbite. ``He felt like he had come out of the refrigerator,'' said Valerie Burke, an assistant curator. Cold water forced 400 turtles ashore along a three-mile stretch of beach at Port St. Joe in the Florida Panhandle. They were gathered up by rescuers; most are expected to be released this week. The weather also is considered a serious threat to Florida's $50 million tropical fish industry. Some of the state's 180 full-time tropical fish farmers moved their fish indoors or covered their ponds to protect them. The cold has already caused scattered fish kills in southern Louisiana for the first time since 1988, and more than 2,000 dead mullet were found in the Perdido River on the Alabama-Florida line. ``It's a natural occurrence, and the way it's going now, we expect to see more before it's all over,'' said Steve Heath, an Alabama state biologist. In South Carolina, water temperatures have dipped into the low 40s, killing roe that was supposed to grow into the spring crop of white shrimp. One state official estimated the catch could be down 99 percent. Below-normal temperatures are expected across much of the South this week. However, the icy temperatures in Northern and Western states have produced a bonus of sorts for bird watchers in Florida: Thousands more birds have been spotted in the Miami area. ``There was probably less food up north due to the unusually cold temperatures last year,'' said Mort Cooper of Miami-Dade's Tropical Audubon Society...."

-- tex (, January 09, 2001

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