DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Florida wildlife officials say 538 manatees were found dead in the state's waterways last year.
That's the third-highest annual death toll on record for the large marine mammals.
In a Daytona Beach News-Journal report, Volusia County's manatee protection program manager, Debbie Wingfield, said a high number of manatee deaths wasn't unexpected because there's a growing number of manatees in Florida.
Michelle Kerr, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's research institute in St. Petersburg, said red tide algae blooms were identified as "a significant contributing factor" to manatee deaths overall in 2017.
Statewide, 106 manatee deaths were attributed to watercraft collisions. Kerr said watercraft collisions account for about 20 percent of manatee deaths over the past five years.
Information from: Daytona Beach (Fla.) News-Journal, http://www.news-journalonline.com