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Nearly 300 manatees fill Florida's Three Sisters Springs

Springs environmental education guide Laura Ruettiman said this year has seen a record manatee population in the area.

By Ben Hooper

CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla., Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed Florida's Three Sisters Springs to the public when nearly 300 manatees unexpectedly moved into the area.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex announced Monday the Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River was temporarily closed to swimmers and boaters when 293 manatees were counted in the interior of the springs.

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Laura Ruettiman, an environmental education guide at the springs, said the area has seen more manatees than usual this year.

"We have a record number this year," Ruettiman told USA Today. "We have 150 more manatees here than have ever been recorded in the past."

Officials said the springs reopened to the public Tuesday but would be closed again as manatees returned to the interior of the springs with the rising tide.

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