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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Look but don’t touch? Tourists rub Florida manatees whether they like it or not.

Published 3/17/2015
Lumbering in the cozy waters of their habitat, they look like big, soft, squishy gray pillows. Anyone who wants to get in and swim alongside them is in luck at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge on the central gulf coast of Florida. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials who manage the refuge say go ahead, they don’t bite.

Florida’s manatee population topped a record 6,000 this week in the state’s latest survey, nearly 1,000 more than the previous high. The numbers are so high that some are calling on the service to remove the manatee’s protection under the Endangered Species Act, where they’ve been listed since it began in 1973. A review that might downgrade them from endangered to threatened is in the draft stage.
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