Dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, whales, and others are making their seasonal return to the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries, as well as the coastal bays.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reminds anyone who has seen either a marine mammal or sea turtle in Maryland waters to report it to the state Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding program.

In addition to calling the hotline, anyone who finds a stranded marine mammal, alive or dead, should follow a few steps if at all possible:

• Do not touch the animal.

• Record your location using latitude/longitude, street address, and/or description with landmarks.

• Estimate and record the length, size, color, noticeable body parts, and movements (if alive).

• Take photos of the animal.

• Stand by the animal at a safe distance until stranding staff is able to reach you.

While the most common visitors are the bottlenose dolphin and loggerhead sea turtles, more than 25 other marine mammals and four species of sea turtles have been recorded in Maryland waters.

The department’s Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding program works in conjunction with the National Aquarium in responding to reports of marine animals throughout Maryland’s waters and coastlines.

Marine mammals are specifically protected by federal law, the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

In addition, sea turtles and whales are both protected under the 1973 Endangered Species Act.

It is illegal to harass, capture, or collect these marine species, alive or dead, including their bones or any body parts.

For more information or to report a stranded marine animal in local waters, call 1-800-628-9944.