TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - It's been a deadly year for manatees, but Florida wildlife officials believe there are more of the threatened marine mammals than they previously thought.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission now says roughly 7,500 to 10,300 manatees swim in state waters, a significant increase from previous estimates of roughly 6,000.
A statement Tuesday said the population estimate comes from data collected in a 2015-2016 survey and analyzed with upgraded computer models.
It's good news in an otherwise tough year for the sea cows. Wildlife officials have documented 779 manatee deaths so far this year, compared to 538 in 2017.
Experts blame a winter cold snap, a prolonged red tide and collisions with boats. Wildlife commission statistics show red tide caused or is suspected in over 200 manatee deaths.