VIRGINIA BEACH(AP) Whales by the dozen are wintering in the unseasonably warm waters off Virginia Beach.

They are attracting a flotilla of recreational boats packed with sightseers and fishermen hoping to glimpse the big mammals gorging on tons of bait fish within sight of the oceanfront's high-rise hotels.

While elated by the unexpected visit, scientists are also concerned that the offseason attraction could create potentially deadly conflicts between curious boaters and whales working the waters to satisfy their prodigious appetites.

They say ships from the world's largest naval base in Norfolk and cargo traffic up the Chesapeake Bay to busy port facilities in Virginia and Baltimore also pose a potential threat.

The whales and many boaters are drawn by the same thing: silvery menhaden and other bait fish.

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