GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Researchers say Florida’s manatee population could double over the next half century if wildlife managers continue protecting the creatures and their habitat.

The U.S. Geological Survey and Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute study released Monday says the popular sea cows enjoy longevity and that enough habitat is available to support a growing population.

The news comes after the recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lessen federal protections for the manatee.

The report says the manatee population in Florida will still likely grow over the next 50 years, but environmental and habitat changes will probably lessen their numbers in south Florida and cause increases in the north.

Still, the study finds two persistent threats too: fatal boat strikes and a loss of warm water habitat.

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