dglobalnews.com Holy Sea Cow! Florida Survey Finds Record Number Of Manatees
Published: Thu, February 23, 2017
Research | By Kayla Price

Holy Sea Cow! Florida Survey Finds Record Number Of Manatees

A team of 15 observers from 10 organizations flying around various regions counted 3,488 manatees on Florida's east coast from Jacksonville to the Keys, and 3,132 on the west coast from the Wakulla River down to the Everglades. The higher than 6,000 manatee numbers can be attributed to favorable weather conditions.

Florida's manatees were first listed as a federal endangered species in 1966.

In the second revision to the estimate in three years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now say between 120 and 230 of the wildcats are roaming, mostly in Southwest Florida.

It was the third straight year that population estimates glowed.

As conflicts have increased between panthers and humans, including a record 34 roadkill panthers a year ago and increasing reports of panthers killing cattle, the number of panthers has become an increasingly contentious issue. That raises concern for state wildlife officials and manatee advocates.

"A downlisting reduces the protections offered to a species", Clare Aslan, a community ecologist and conservation biologist at Northern Arizona University, tells The Christian Science Monitor in an email.

The survey is done every winter following a cold front, said Holly Edwards, FWC biologist and assistant research scientist, who stressed that aerial counts are not accurate population counts because they can often miss manatees.

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A threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. You can also purchase a subscription and have full access to the site.

But despite these concerns, manatees have been on the path to "threatened" status since 2007, when the Department of the Interior, which heads the US Fish and Wildlife Service, completed a 5-year status review of the species and recommended reclassifying them.

"The manatee's recovery is incredibly encouraging and a great testament to the conservation actions of many", Cindy Dohner, the Southeast regional director for US Fish and Wildlife, said at the time.

A public comment period ended in April 2016.

The federal agency is expected to make a decision on the change sometime this year. The agency's other argument for changing the listing: a computer model that shows they now stand little chance of going extinct.

The manatee remains protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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