[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Mass dolphin strandings on Cape Cod



Close to 50 dolphins have been stranded on Cape Cod beaches since Thursday
01/16/2012 8:52 PM

By Lindsey Hoshaw, Globe Correspondent

Up to fifty dolphins have been stranded on Cape Cod beaches since last Thursday, one of the largest strandings in recent years.

"I've been doing this for 15 years and this is only the second season I've seen it like this," said Katie Moore, manager of the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Program, a Yarmouth Port group that oversees the rescues.

Today, six Common Dolphins found stranded in Wellfleet were successfully released off Herring Cove. One was pregnant, according to a sonogram taken by the rescue group. Members of the animal welfare fund watched them swim away amid cheering and clapping from about 30 onlookers, said Brian Sharp, the IFAW's stranding coordinator.

"It's always a relief when we get the animals out, and this is the reason we do our jobs -- days like this," said Sharp.

Dolphin strandings on the Cape are common from January through March but it's rare to see mass strandings, where two or more dolphins are stuck on shore, several days in a row.

The largest single-day stranding came on Saturday when 37 beached dolphins were found in Dennis, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet.

Only 13 animals were alive when rescuers found them and 11 were released back into the water. Another 10 couldn't be reached because of their location and 14 were dead when rescuers found them, according to a spokesperson for the animal welfare group.

Brewster resident Lisa Witzke was on Scusset Beach on Saturday afternoon and watched rescuers release the dolphins back into the water.

"You see these animals that are so beautiful but they're so stressed out," Witzke said. "You feel such compassion and it's such a humbling experience."

In Wellfleet today, the beached dolphins were lifted onto stretchers and hoisted onto a mobile aluminum cart and wheeled upshore. The dolphins were then placed in a trailer and either covered with blankets to keep them warm or doused with water to keep them cool. The Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Program conducted a battery of tests, including a sonogram, hearing test, and blood draw.

Once the rescuers reached Herring Cove, they hoisted the dolphins, one-by-one down to the beach on the stretchers. The group then waded chest deep into the water, an effort that took six people since the heaviest animal weighed 316 pounds.

Most of the dolphins were fitted with satellite tags that transmit their location so the team could monitor their survival after the animals' release.

More than 15 dolphins have been tagged in the past two years, and researchers have used the tags to locate and check on the conditions of five of the animals, all of which were doing well.

"All evidence suggests that these rescues are successful," Sharp said.

Researchers aren't sure why these dolphins came ashore but evidence suggests that the pack mentality negatively affects the mammals when one heads for shallow waters and the others follow.

Rescuers have been working from 7 a.m. to midnight for five days in an effort to save the animals. If the dolphins are not returned to the water within a few hours they have little chance of surviving.

Doug Sandilands, a member of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement Response Team, helped with one of the rescues Saturday. After wading into chest-deep water and dodging four-foot waves, Sandilands and other volunteers released the dolphin near Herring Cove, where a crowd stood on the shore.

"People on the beach were cheering," Sandilands said. "I certainly felt happy for the dolphin and I think everyone was hopeful."

Lindsey Hoshaw can be reached at lhoshaw@gmail.com.

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Brenna K said...

your blog is great! it has alot of info and i can tell that you really care about this subject. this is a very serious subject. i learned alot from your blog!:)

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