Thursday, February 08, 2007

Florida manatee survey finds minimum of 2,812 sea cows

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - An annual census has found 2,812 manatees in Floridawaters, state wildlife officials said Tuesday.A team of 16 observers surveyed the state manatee population by air andground between Jan. 30 and Feb. 1. Scientists counted 1,412 manatees on theAtlantic Coast and 1,400 on the state's gulf coast, according to the FloridaFish and Wildlife Conservation Commission."We counted record numbers of manatees in Tampa Bay, Blue Spring and BrevardCounty," said FWC biologist Holly Edwards. She said 816 were counted inBrevard, for example, compared to the previous record of 718 in 2004."This was a very warm year, and it looks like the population has shifted tothe north," Edwards said.The first year the survey was taken in 1991 only 1,267 sea cows were countedstatewide. Last year, scientists found 3,116.However, officials said the count, mandated under state law, is not intendedto represent the state's overall manatee population but simply offers aminimum number.

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