TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) ― Florida wildlife officials say their annual manatee survey counted 6,620 of the sea cows ̶ the most since the state began the census in 1991.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that the aerial survey found 3,488 manatees on the east coast and 3,132 on the west coast.
The state used a team of 15 observers from 10 organizations to conduct the count.
It’s the third straight year the manatee census has topped 6,000. That compares to the first five years of the survey, when fewer than 2,000 manatees were spotted.
Last year the federal government downgraded the sea mammal’s protected status from endangered ̶ which means they are facing extinction ̶ to threatened because populations have rebounded.