CORAL GABLES, FLA. (WSVN) - In what was a sad start to her weekend, a Coral Gables woman found a dead baby manatee behind her home, and she said it’s the second such discovery she has made in less than a year.

Small and quite possibly starving, the calf’s body washed up behind Ilaria Pezzatini’s home, Saturday morning.

“It was very small. I’ve never seen such a manatee that small,” said neighbor Zoe Diedrich.

Pezzatini said this is the second baby manatee she’s found in the waters behind her home in less than a year.

“This baby manatee didn’t have any boat marks on the back. When they picked it up, we looked at it, and it didn’t have anything that showed any boat had run it over, so I’ve heard that there are some environmental causes,” she said.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, environmental causes are taking a toll on the manatee population.

In 2021, preliminary data released by the FWC revealed more than 1,100 manatees died in 2021, a record number.

That figure is nearly double the annual number of deaths in recent years. For comparison, in 2020, the FWC reported 637 manatee deaths.

Officials attribute most deaths to environmental conditions and starvation, and they said the main culprit here is pollution. Poor water quality kills seagrass, the main nutrient for manatees, while creating toxic algae blooms.

“I’m a boater, and I’ve noticed the clarity of the water has changed over the years,” said Pezzatini. “The development of the city, the construction, and everything that washes from our roads into the water is creating a lot of silt in the water, and I think the city needs to enforce its laws that should prevent this from happening.”

But to really prevent this from happening, Diedrich said, everyone needs to come to the understanding that they are all pieces of Mother Nature’s puzzle.

“Just be conscious about what products you’re using and also be conscious about the actions you’re taking,” she said. “It really touches your heart, ’cause there’s really nothing that anyone thinks they can do in their daily lives, but there are, and the little things can make an impact.”

Manatees are currently listed as threatened, so they are still protected. A proposed bill would reclassify them as an endangered species.

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