Experts are trying to pinpoint the cause of a sharp increase in harp seal strandings along the East Coast.

The Portland Press Herald reports about 70 of the marine mammals were found stranded in Maine since Jan. 1, compared to about nine the previous year.

Biologists have not found evidence that the harp seals are suffering from the distemper virus that killed hundreds of harbor seals last year.

Federal officials and Marine Mammals of Maine say the harp seal strandings may be due to dehydration caused by a lack of coastal snow and ice this winter.

Officials say the spike in strandings is happening as far south as New Jersey and Delaware. People who encounter the seals are encouraged to give them space.

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