It used to be boat propellers that were the villain that killed Florida's manatees. Now it looks like it is Mother Nature.
Since Jan. 1, 699 manatees have reportedly died, most of them relating to the severe drop in temperatures the state saw last winter, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released in a report.
The dead sea cows set a record, but also signaled a significant population growth of the marine mammals. Researchers found nearly 5,100 manatees during a recent statewide count, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
But high death toll has some officials concerned, particularly with the recent cold snap that has hit the region in the past two weeks. The death total was a count up until Dec. 5, just before the coldest temperatures of the year were recorded.
"We are very concerned about the unusually high number of manatee deaths this year," Gil McRae, an official with the FWCC, said in a statement. "The cold-related deaths this past winter emphasize the importance of warm-water habitat to Florida's manatees."
Manatees have been known to migrate to warmer waters to beat the cold and are often found near power plants and nuclear reactors, which let off large amounts of heat into the water.