Mild winter temperatures in Florida caused manatee deaths to drop in 2012 to their lowest level of the past four years, though 392 of those marine mammals still died.

The figure was provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, which noted that a quarter of manatee deaths last year were due to human-related causes.

The number was welcome news considering that the number of deaths among that protected species hit a record high of 766 in 2010, 282 of them attributed to cold stress.

Manatees, which can live in both fresh- and salt-water habitats, are sensitive to drops in temperature. When the mercury falls, these animals will often huddle in the warm waters of canals adjacent to power-plant outflows.

In those shallow waters, manatees are often injured or killed by boat propellers.

According to FWC figures, 81 manatees were killed last year by watercraft, a figure slightly below the average for the past five years. EFE