MANATEE -- An estimated 4,800 manatees swim the waters in Florida.
No one really knows how many of the slow-moving mammals were in the state 100 years ago, before human populations increased.
But if people boating Manatee and Sarasota county waterways during the upcoming Labor Day holiday can avoid striking the endangered manatees, it will not only keep the creatures numbers from falling, but will spare many from disfigurement, says Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation for Save the Manatee Club.
Boating accidents are a huge problem for manatees, Tripp said. Most people look at the mortality numbers, which show just one death for both Manatee and Sarasota in 2011, and they think that things are OK. But pretty much all the manatees we see, even first-year calves, have horrific scars from watercraft strikes.
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 5, there have been 57 manatee deaths in Florida due to collisions with the hulls and/or propeller blades of water craft, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, http://research.myFWC.com/manatees/, which updates manatee mortality.
There were 57 deaths for all of last year.
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