Seals commonly visit the Jersey Shore during the cold months, but this winter was different.
Schoelkopf’s theory is that the seals feeding within back bays when the freeze occurred were unable to escape.
“So they just stayed where they were,” he said.
When the thaw occurred, the seals swam out and ate, but then needed to rest and replenish oxygen, according to Schoelkopf.
That’s why there was such a concentration of the marine mammals on the beaches — double the typical amount, the expert said.
The center was busy with calls for assistance this season, although only a handful of seals were sick and taken in for treatment.
MMSC urges the public to remain at least 50 feet from seals.