Red tide bloom in southwest Florida has killed 174 manatees so far, which is the highest number of deaths in a calendar single year associated with the phenomenon, wildlife officials said Monday.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking the public to look out for any manatees that seem to be affected.
"Signs that a manatee is affected by red tide include a lack of coordination and stability in the water, muscle twitches or seizures and difficulty lifting its head to breathe," the FWC said in an email statement.
A total of 12 manatees have been rescued so far. The public should call the FWC's alert hotline at 888-404-3922 to report any affected, dead or in-distress manatees.
"State and federal scientists are collecting and analyzing data aimed at better understanding the long-term impacts of this ongoing event on the manatee population and the impacts of other events including extreme cold snaps from 2009-2011," the FWC said.
Manatees are listed as an endangered species. After years of conservation, wildlife officials has begun on working to reclassify the manatee from endangered to threatened to show their improved population numbers.