It’s not unusual for dolphins to flock to the Virginia Beach coastline in the summer but the warmer waters may also attract another marine mammal - manatees. These rotund, vegetarian, slow-moving creatures, who have earned the name of sea cows, are currently migrating up the East Coast and are particularly vulnerable to hazards.
In Virginia, manatees can be found in tributaries, inlets, bays, and marinas as they pause for a quick snack. Manatees feed on sea grasses and algae so they may be found close to piers, docks, and docked boats. Because they spend so much time on the surface, they are susceptible to being hit by boats.
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center reminds citizens that manatees are protected under the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act which means that when sighted they must be enjoyed from a distance and never fed or harassed. If seen locally, please call the Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team immediately, (757) 385-7575. Manatees can actually be identified by the scars on their backs from unfortunate encounters with boat propellers. If you can do so safely, and from a distance, please photograph the animal, note its size as well as any unique markings, and send this information to the Stranding Response Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program’s mission is to promote the conservation of marine animal species through stranding response, research, rehabilitation and education. It is largely a volunteer-based group operating from the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center in Virginia Beach. The program is supported by the Virginia Aquarium Foundation through donations from the community, and grant-making organizations. To report a dead or live stranded marine mammal or sea turtle call the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program 24-hour hotline at (757) 385-7575.
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