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Iguanas Dropping, Manatees Gathering, Pythons Surviving in Florida’s Cold

Florida’s harsh cold spell is a bonanza for animal watchers, if not for the Florida animals themselves. Manatees are gathering around power plants and hot springs. Iguanas are dropping from trees in a kind of cold coma. Cold-stunned turtles are warming up in hotel rooms. Pythons are sunning themselves. And waterfowl are migrating down from other states, says Gary Morse, a spokesman for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Manatees: The manatees are the ones wildlife officials are worried about. They’re native, endangered and hate the cold. Sea cows need water at least 68 degrees to survive. Last year at least 56 died of cold stress, the FWC says. This year they’d like people to give them a break and back off for a bit. “They are stressed from the cold and from not eating. We advise people not to approach them in these times,” Morse says. “Our mere presence as human beings can cause them to flee the very thing they need.” The FWC already pulled two frigid manatees from cold water and sent to a zoo and an aquarium to warm up.

Sea Turtles: Sea Turtles often turn up at the same hot spots that draw manatees. But if they don’t they become sluggish and eventually get cold-stunned and beach themselves. Rescuers are swooping in and taking them to the The Turtle Hospital on the Keys and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center have resorted to putting them up in hotel rooms and kiddie pools, respectively.

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Florida wants to get rid of invasive species, especially those that were dumped into the wild as pets and pose a danger to the animals that are supposed to be there. People mostly agree–except when it comes to animals that are fun to watch. Wildlife populations are always moving and in flux, after all. 

Iguanas: Florida has 48 invasive reptile species, mostly lizards. The Mexican spiny-tailed iguana can grow to four feet and has been around since 1978. The iguanas get cold and fall from trees. Some helpful Floridians take them inside to warm up–something wildlife officials frown on.

Pythons: Nobody likes pythons, which are overtaking the swamps by the thousands. Jenny Tinnell, FWC biologist, put out a statement encouraging hunting: “They may be out in the open more than before to find the warmth of the sun, and we hope hunters, in the normal course of hunting in these areas, will take advantage of the opportunity to help stop the spread of this nonnative species.”

Birds: Birds that normally fly to Georgia, may have to fly to Miami to get the warmth they need this year. No one is sure what will happen to the resident monk parrots and parakeets that dot the state, either.

Where to see wildlife in Florida

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