CLEARWATER, Fla. — The beloved sea cow is known for its friendly demeanor and adorable face, but a preliminary Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report shows one of the biggest threats manatees face are boaters. 

This year, watercraft vehicles are responsible for 129 manatee deaths, which is the highest recorded number in years. 

"We see a lot of boating-related incidents with a lot of marine animals, unfortunately," says Kerry Sanchez, a senior biologist at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Sanchez said there may not be an exact reason why so many manatees are being hit, but a lot of it could be from human interaction.

"They are very friendly, and if they've been fed by humans, they will come back," Sanchez said. "The best thing we can do is not interact with them in the wild."

Wildlife experts say the trend for boat-related crashes has gone up every year. 

In 2014, FWC recorded 66 deaths. Four years later, in 2018, the number nearly doubled to 121.

Sanchez said the best way to avoid a crash is to have a designated animal spotter before starting the engine. If the animal is several feet away and does not swim toward you, you are set to go. 

"We can all do a little bit better to help them out in the waterways," Sanchez said.

If you see an injured animal, contact the FWC hotline immediately at 888-404-FWCC (3922).