An IFAW responder with one of the five dolphins who recently stranded on Cape Cod.

A dolphin satellite-tagged during a rescue ten days ago appears to be doing well, swimming in areas that are known habitats for common dolphins.

One of four dolphins successfully released that day received a temporary satellite tag, allowing staff to follow its movements post-release until the battery runs out after a few weeks and the small tag detaches.

In what may have been an early start to the coming stranding season, the IFAW team responded to a report of four live common dolphins that were stranded at the Herring River Gut in Wellfleet on a receding tide.

Upon our arrival, a volunteer notified us that a fifth live animal had been spotted, more than 300 yards away on the flats of the channel leading to the harbor. 

Four of the five dolphins are visible in this photo.

It would’ve been hours before the tide would be high enough to get a boat to the stranding site to herd the dolphins out of the area should they have refloated on the incoming tide. Even still, they were in an area of sand bars and mud flats that would’ve made it nearly impossible to get them to open water safely.

Staff and responders immediately divided in an attempt to rescue all of the animals; some worked to stretcher the group of four and bring them closer to shore, while others quickly made their way to the single dolphin in the channel, which would’ve likely been the first to refloat.

If that dolphin was to refloat, it would have been separated from the rest of the group and likely strand elsewhere, reducing its chance of survival.

With the help of many volunteers and the National Park Service, the staff was successful in extracting all five animals safely from the flats and transporting them to our rescue trailer for assessment and treatments. Unfortunately, the single animal rescued from the channel died soon after being recovered, possibly due to the stress of the stranding.

Health assessments, which included reviewing blood values, monitoring vital signs and conducting external examinations for any injuries, were performed on the four remaining dolphins while they were given supportive care. Each dolphin was deemed a release candidate, and so the decision was made to release them as a group at Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown. Each animal received veterinary treatments and was affixed with a numeric identifier on its dorsal; one was given the satellite tag.

Health assessments, which included reviewing blood values, monitoring vital signs and conducting external examinations for any injuries, were performed on the four remaining dolphins while they were given supportive care.

Just a few hours later, the four common dolphins that had been lying amongst the oyster shells on the Wellfleet mud flats earlier that day were released. A large crowd of more than a hundred beachgoers cheered as the animals made their way offshore—a great ending to a successful response.

A large crowd of more than a hundred beachgoers cheered as the animals made their way offshore—a great ending to a successful response.

The following day, a necropsy was conducted on the animal that died; samples were sent off for analysis and the results are pending. The results from the necropsy will provide us useful insight as to effects of strandings on dolphins.

A dolphin satellite-tagged during a rescue ten days ago appears to be doing well, swimming in areas that are known habitats for common dolphins.

All of these data are used to constantly enhance the care we are able to provide dolphins during these stranding events.

–JH

Find out more about our Marine Mammal Rescue Reasearch team efforts on their project page.

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Article source: IFAW

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