Cold weather aids manatee count

CREATED Feb. 6, 2014

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CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The blast of winter cold that reached deep into Florida at the end of January helped biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) with its statewide aerial survey of manatees.

FWC's efforts produced a preliminary count of 4,831 manatees in Florida.

Over two days (Jan. 24 and 27), a team of 20 observers from nine organizations counted 2,317 manatees on Florida’s east coast and 2,514 on the west coast of the state.

“This year’s manatee count is the third highest we have recorded since the first statewide aerial survey in 1991,” said Gil McRae, director of the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “We are encouraged by the relatively high count, especially given the high number of manatee deaths documented recently. Information on warm-water habitat use from this year’s survey will be integrated with manatee survival and reproductive rates to update future population projections.”