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Record number of Florida manatees died in 2021

By Simon Druker
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Record number of Florida manatees died in 2021
Members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission prepare to release a rehabilitated manatee back into the wild in Florida. The state announced that 1,101 of the animals died in 2021, the highest total in at least the last 12 years. Photo courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Florida's manatee population saw its highest death toll in at least a dozen years in 2021, the state announced.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reporting a total of 1,101 of the mammals died last year.

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That figure is almost double the state's five-year average of 625 deaths.

Last week, a new emergency rule went into effect providing more protection for manatees. It established a temporary no-entry zone, which is supervised by law enforcement and the commission's biologists.

Manatees are a protected species in Florida, which recorded 637 of the animals' deaths in 2020.

The second-highest death toll since 2010 occurred in 2013 when 830 animals died.

A majority of the deaths occurred on the state's east coast, in what the commission calls a manatee mortality event.

Watercraft were listed as the animals' cause of death in 103 cases, which was the second-lowest number for that cause in the last five years.

"The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue to investigate a high level of manatee mortalities and respond to manatee rescues along the Atlantic coast of Florida," says a statement on the commission's website.

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