That state has its own Unusual Mortality Event this year, with bottlenose dolphin strandings in the Indian River Lagoon system at three times historical averages. Manatee deaths are also up there, and no cause has been determined, according to NOAA.
For the Smithsonian's Potter, who has been working with stranded dolphin response teams in Virginia, the die-off takes a personal toll.
"When you sit back and think about it, it does stick with you," he told NPR. "Unfortunately, a number of the animals we've looked at have been neonates, that is, infants. And as a father, that's always hard to do."