Between 1993 and 2003, 713 (24%) of 2,940 dead Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) recovered from Florida waters and examined were killed by watercraft-induced trauma. It was determined that this mortality was the result of watercraft trauma because the external wound patterns and the internal lesions seen during gross necropsy are recognizable and diagnostic. This study documents the methods used in determining watercraft-related mortality during gross necropsy and explains why these findings are diagnostic. Watercraft can inflict sharp- and blunt-force trauma to manatees, and both types of trauma can lead to mortality. This mortality may be a direct result of the sharp and blunt forces or from the chronic effects resulting from either force. In cases in which death is caused by a chronic wound-related complication, the original incident is usually considered to be the cause of death. Once a cause of death is determined, it is recorded in an extensive database and is used by Federal and state managers in developing strategies for the conservation of the manatee. Common sequelae to watercraft-induced trauma include skin lesions, torn muscles, fractured and luxated bones, lacerated internal organs, hemothorax, pneumothorax, pyothorax, hydrothorax, abdominal hemorrhage and ascites, and pyoperitoneum.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3