Manatees are no longer listed as an endangered specias by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Last week the federal agency redesignated West Indian manatees as threatened.
Manatees were among the first species added to the endangered species list in 1972 when there were only a few hundred of the animals found in Florida waters.
This year Florida wildlife managers counted over 6600 manatees during their annual count – the third year where more than 600 manatees have been found in Florida waters.
The downlisting means that the manatee is no longer considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, but the Fish and Wildlife Service emphasized that the downlisting will not diminish any existing federal protections and manatee will continue to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
And while manatees spend much of their winter in the warmer waters of south Florida, this is the time of year they begin spreading out and moving into our area.
In north Florida boaters are urged to wear polarized sunglasses to help spot the creatures in the water.
You should also watch for large, telltale circles on the water’s surface which indicate the presence of manatees – sometimes you can also see their snouts.
If you do see manatee make sure to slow down and give them plenty of room.
If you find a sick or injured manatee you should report it to the Florida Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.