A 900-pound manatee has been found dead on a Delaware Bay beach in Cape May County.
Robert Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, said the manatee had been dead for at least two weeks when it was found Sunday at low tide by a regular visitor to the beach in Middle Township.
The 11-foot-long sea mammal probably died from “exposure to the cold weather,” Schoelkopf said.
He said a team from the stranding center collected some biological samples and would send them to U.S. Fish and Wildlife manatee experts in Florida for testing.
Many manatees are identified by scars, so the team also was sending photographs of the one found on the beach to see if it can be identified.
Schoelkopf said there had been no reports of manatees in the area in recent months but one was spotted in Maryland waters in the fall.
Manatees, whose natural range is the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, have been spotted as far north as Massachusetts in recent years as ocean temperatures have risen. Manatees need water temperatures above 68 degrees to survive.
In October 2009, a manatee known as Ilya was found trying to stay warm at an outflow pipe at a refinery in Linden, N.J.
After a rescue operation, the Coast Guard airlifted Ilya to Florida, where the manatee was released.