TODAY   |  March 16, 2013

Record number of manatees washing up along Fla. coast

In a backwater creek on Florida's southwest coast, endangered manatees are being threatened by more than speedboats and cold snaps. Wildlife officials are racing the clock to save the lives of the gentle giants. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> to florida are manatees are fighting for their lives. a record number have died? the last two months.

>> you should see some here?

>> in a whack water cleek on florida 's southwest coast they're racing the clock to save lives.

>> there were three traveling out this way.

>> they're searching forren danger erd florida manatees, gentle giants that spend their days eating plants in coastal waters and rivers and already threatened by speed boats and cold snaps they're now threatened by red tide . so far this year it has killed 184 compared to the previous record of 151 in 1996 .

>> the locations of the red tide is particularly harmful occurring in the area offshore where they congregate during the winter thinking warm water.

>> manatees ingest the toxin by breathing it at the surface or eatingal sdwri coated sea gress and they then become peril liedsed and drown.

>> they're languishing at the surface gasping for air.

>> if found in time they can be saved. ten have been treated successfully.

>> we put a life jacket on them and use a noodle to help keep their head bouyant.

>> if fountain dead they are taken in for a neck crop sigh.

>> we have had several animals, larnler breed are males and females. whenever you lose the adults it could have long-lasting effects.

>> scientists worry with the red tide toxin now covering area sea grasses. the all right record die off could get a lot worse.