Manatees stage a comeback... but for how long?

Posted at 5:51 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 18:25:01-05

The number of manatees in coastal waters has been on the increase, which is good news for wildlife watchers and tourists, but changes ahead may mean more problems for the protected sea cows.

And just as sure as the manatees are back-- so too are the folks flocking to see them.

"In the 15 years I've been out here, we've had anywhere from 160,000 to over 300,000 visitors in five and a half months," said Ms. Woodlee.

And this year -- with the sightings so plentiful, the crowds have swelled

"I was here before a few years ago, but there weren't this many people so this is definitely attracting a lot of tourists this winter," said Jan Grossnickle, visiting from St. Petersburg.

But all this positive publicity could be short lived. 

There's a proposal to reclassify the manatee from endangered to a threatened status, and with a move to cut back on coal-fired power plants, those warm-water outflow canals like the one here could be shutting down... So the manatee might have to migrate even further south. 

It'll still be a survival story worth watching.