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Manatee Deaths on Pace to Break Record

November 23rd, 2009 by flanews

2009 is on track to be the deadliest year for Florida manatees, with an estimated 4-hundred deaths so far. Part of the reason the death toll is up is because the manatee population is growing. Another reason is boats. As Whitney Ray tells us, Wildlife experts are asking boaters to slow down.

Three years ago, a herd of manatees was a rare sight in North Florida, but now the manatee population in Wakulla Springs State Park is growing. Last week 26 were spotted in one day.

Were not sure exactly why they are staying through the winter. There is a number of different manatee researchers that we work with that are looking at that now trying to understand why, said Brian Fugate, the manager at Wakulla Spring State Park.

One reason could be a population spike. In 2000, a quick survey found just 22-hundred manatees in the state. This year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission spotted 38-hundred, its highest count ever.

Those manatees are now on the move. As the temperature drops outside the manatees move closer to the head spring where the water is warmer.

But earlier this year many manatees didnt make it to the head spring. Cold stress killed dozens of them. Boaters claimed 91 this year alone. In the middle of this month the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission changed speed zones in areas where manatees are expected to travel.

Keep your eye out for manatees, try to avoid them, give them plenty of space and obey the speed zones, said Carol Knox, a biological administrator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Boaters who dont could receive a speeding ticket or worse. Killing a manatee carries a 500 dollars fine.

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