ORANGE CITY, Fla. — It's not unusual for manatees to search for warmer waters when Florida gets cold. But it isn't every day that you see 729 of them in one state park.
Blue Spring State Park in Volusia County counted a record number of manatees on Jan. 17, during the state's recent cold snap.
The 729 sea cows broke the park's previous record of 721 manatees set on Jan. 29, 2022, park officials wrote on Facebook.
You may be able to spot some on Blue Spring's underwater web stream.
The water in Blue Spring State Park is said to stay around 72 F.
Since it was established in 1972, the park has become a hub for manatee viewing and tracking. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, hiking or cruising through the water.
Manatee deaths dropped in 2022 from a record high the year before, but Florida wildlife officials say that chronic starvation caused by water pollution remains a major concern.
In an effort to slow those deaths, state and federal officials are once again feeding thousands of pounds of romaine lettuce to manatees at a warm-water power plant on Florida's east coast.
Threatened animals were fed more than 200,000 pounds of lettuce in the initial trial program last year.
FWC manatee biologist Michelle Pasawicz said the feeding program certainly helped some individual manatees, but the decline in deaths may also be attributed to the weaker, sickest animals perishing in the earlier months of the die-off.
“The manatees do appear to generally be in better shape overall,” Pasawicz said during an online news conference. “I think we were helping some manatees for sure. A milder winter definitely gives the manatees a better chance.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.