Local wildlife advocates are emphasizing the importance of reporting marine animal sightings following the death of a manatee found in Virginia Beach on Friday.
The manatee is believed to be the same one spotted at the mouth of Rudee Inlet in December, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center said in a Facebook post.
There were several sightings of manatees along the Outer Banks and into Virginia Beach through late fall, worrying wildlife experts, who say the creatures can’t survive in cold waters.
In November the OBX Stranding Network asked folks to look out in particular for a manatee with three scars on his back.
That manatee, caught on video Nov. 2 by Mike Jamison before a kayak tour near Kitty Hawk Bay, appears to be the same one spotted several times over the summer on the Outer Banks.
When sudden drops in air temperatures lead to similar decreases in water temps, marine mammals and reptiles such as turtles can suffer adverse effects known as cold-stunning.
The Virginia Aquarium told Wavy 10 TV scientists believe the Virginia Beach manatee’s death was “cold stress related.”
The area’s stranding networks work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist in returning manatees to warmer waters as needed.
Manatee sightings have become a more regular occurrence in local waters, with the creatures swimming as far north as coastal Virginia during summer migration season, according to the USFWS.