ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The number of manatee deaths in Florida has topped 800 for the first time since such record-keeping began in the 1970s.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg says 803 manatee deaths have been recorded this year. That's about 16 percent of the state's estimated population of 5,000 manatees.
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Martine DeWit of the institute's Marine Mammal Pathology Laboratory tells the Tampa Bay Times that 173 of the dead were breeding-age females. It's unclear what effect these deaths will have on the endangered species' population.
The previous record for manatee deaths was 766, set in 2010 after a lengthy cold snap.
Scientists blame a massive bloom of red tide algae in southwest Florida and a mysterious ailment affecting manatees in the Indian River Lagoon for this year's deaths.
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River Safari keepers gently release a 4-month old baby female Manatee named Mini, into a holding pool on March 13, 2013, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)