MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — A manatee carcass washed up Sunday on a Delaware Bay beach in the Del Haven section of the township, officials said.
Someone walking on the beach saw the animal and called the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, which responded, said Bob Schoelkopf, the center’s director.
The adult male manatee was 11 feet long and estimated to be between 900 and 1,000 pounds, Schoelkopf said.
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“The animal was dead for some time when it washed ashore,” he said, explaining that, although there isn’t a definitive cause of death, it’s probable that a lack of food and a low body temperature contributed. “It just got too cold for it.”
In recent years, manatees, which generally live in warmer Florida waters, have made their way north, Schoelkopf said. There was a manatee in Maryland a couple months ago, and the center rescued one in 2011 from North Jersey.
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“It’s a thing they call exploring when a species goes into a new territory — it’s not unheard of,” he said, adding it’s too early to tell whether warming waters from climate change are a contributing factor.
Samples were taken from the carcass, as well as photos to be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for attempts to identify it from scarring, he said.
Researchers from the Rutgers Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory and conservation officers from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife also responded.