Officials are investigating the death of a manatee that was found on a beach in Cape May County, New Jersey, and whether climate change played a role.
The 11-foot-long male manatee was discovered along the Delaware Bay in Middle Township on Sunday. Officials said it’s estimated to weigh around 900 pounds. Staffers with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey, are working to determine what caused the manatee to die and why it ended up at the Delaware Bay.
“This is pretty unusual for us,” Jay Pagel of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center told NBC10.
The person who reported the manatee said it wasn’t at the location last week. Staffers with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center suspect it’s been dead for at least a month.
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“Generally with these guys, especially up in this area, if we find them deceased, it’s somehow associated with the cold water,” Pagel said.
Manatees are commonly found in Florida’s coastal waters. Experts told NBC10 over the past 15 years more have been turning up in New Jersey and areas even further north during warmer months.
“It’s quite possible this could be related to climate change,” Pagel said.
Members of the Rutgers Cape Shore Laboratory, located about 3/4 of a mile south of where the manatee was found, are helping with the investigation. The collected data will be sent to federal wildlife authorities.
“Typically we just work with oysters and shellfish and we don’t expect anything this large on the beach,” Sam Ratcliff, a member of the Rutgers Cape Shore Laboratory, told NBC10. “It was a surprise kind of hearing it yesterday and then seeing it in person today.”