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Florida manatee population survey shows promising numbers

January 29, 2009 | 10:14 am

A manatee and her calf.

Scientists from the Research Institute of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported an all-time high number of manatees during the annual synoptic survey conducted earlier this month.

The aerial observation survey returned with a preliminary count of 3,807 manatees, exceeding the previous high in 2001 by more than 500. The best conditions for these surveys occur during the coldest months, when manatees gather in warmer waters.

"Several cold fronts passed through Florida over a short time period, causing a large number of manatees to move to warm-water sites," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute biologist Holly Edwards. "Good weather conditions allowed the manatees to be easily seen and counted, contributing to this year's high count."

Although synoptic results are not population estimates and should not be used to assess trends, the FWC scientists are encouraged by this year's high numbers and believe the survey results show that the manatee population appears to be increasing. 

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A manatee and her calf. Credit: Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times