BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — 25 tons of lettuce.
That’s how much food manatees have been able to feast on since the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission started its manatee feeding program in January.
The program is part of an effort to prevent manatees from starving to death.
A record number of 1,101 manatees died in 2021.
Many of them starved due to water pollution killing the native seagrass that they eat.
Officials said the feeding program has attracted about 300 to 350 manatees per day.
Sometimes they’re able to attract up to 800 manatees to the feeding site located at a Florida Power & Light plant on the state’s east coast.
Normally, wildlife experts advise against feeding wild animals because they begin to associate humans with food.
It remains a crime for a person to feed manatees on their own, although officials say many people want to help.
The Florida FWC encourages people to donate money instead.