MIAMI (AP) - Federal wildlife officials are proposing relisting Florida's iconic manatees as a "threatened" species, a less dire classification than "endangered."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said Thursday that the manatee population has recovered enough that the species no longer meets the definition of "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act.
Florida's manatee population has grown from several hundred in 1967 to more than 6,000 counted last year in an annual statewide survey.
A listing as a "threatened" species would allow some flexibility for federal officials but maintain most of the protections afforded to animals listed as endangered.
The public would have 90 days to comment.
Also known as "sea cows," manatees are primarily found in Florida though their range extends to Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean.
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