TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- After three consecutive years of unusually high deaths for manatees around Florida, 2012 delivered a break from that trend.
But the state still recorded 392 manatee deaths last year.
Boaters are blamed for killing 81 manatees. Those boating-related deaths are below the five-year average, according to the state's top expert on manatees.
Carol Knox of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says a milder winter last year translated into fewer cold-related deaths.
The winter of 2010 was blamed for a record 279 manatee deaths. Last year, FWC recorded 28 deaths from cold stress.
"We didn't have the high numbers of cold-stress deaths that manatees suffer when it gets too cold in the winter and they can't find warm enough water, so 2012 was a pretty warm year almost throughout the state. So that, I think, was our saving grace," said Knox.
Knox says Florida is considering dredging projects at some natural springs to expand manatees' access to areas with warmer water.
Plus, she says Florida Power and Light is preparing to generate more power at plants in Cape Canaveral, Riviera Beach and Port Everglades. She says that would produce more warm water around the plants and likely attract more manatees during winter.