Cold snap taking a toll on sea life

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (WAVY) —  The cold snap is taking a toll on sea and wildlife in Hampton Roads and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

From the icy waters of the Atlantic a tiny sea-horse washed up along 10th Street at the Oceanfront on Friday.

The same 10 On Your Side Viewer who shared her photo of that unique encounter then found an eel in the sand near 13th Street on Sunday afternoon.

It may seem unusual to most of us but Virginia Aquarium staff veterinarian Allyson McNaughton told WAVY.com, “They probably got impacted by the weather and the temperatures but it’s not unheard of for them to be in this region.”

McNaughton says most animals in our region are well equipped to handle the cold. “Where they start to get into trouble or tricky situations is if it lasts for extended periods of time or if there’s other factors, if an animal is already fighting some other stress if it is sick or low on nutrition.”

That may be what happened to a dolphin that died in Wolfsnare Creek over the weekend.

“The larger whales and dolphins can cope, they use their blubber stores and as long as they can swim they are generally ok,” McNaughton said.

The ones most at risk she told us are sea turtles. The cold-blooded animals are being rescued at alarming rates in Florida and the Carolinas right now. When water temperatures dip below 50 degrees they can become stunned.

The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is inundated with 188 turtles entering since December. They currently have 90 in rehab.

The Virginia Aquarium has responded to 35 since the fall. Their most recent rescue happened on New Years Day. Another turtle found Sunday didn’t make it.

If you come across an injured or deceased sea creature call the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team at (757) 385-7575 or for other wildlife call the VBSPCA Wildlife Program at (757) 263-4762.