February 7, 2012
Cape Cod Dolphin Strandings At Record High For January
The dolphin strandings reported in Massachusetts have been a record event for the Cape Cod area.
Since early January, 129 common dolphins have been found stranded on the beaches, said Katie Moore a marine mammal rescue and research manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.She said they were able to release 37 of 54 animals recovered alive, but 75 others were dead or had to be euthanized on the spot, bringing the death toll to 92.
It is unusual, though, for so many animals to strand themselves at one time. The dolphins are stranding themselves in groups as large as 10. Dolphins are known to be very social animals and they may be following each other to their own demise.
These strong social bonds serve the animals well in the wild but when they get into trouble they stay together. Moore told Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian newspaper: “That bond becomes a liability when they get into shallow water, and that may be why they mass strand.”
Other theories as to why the dolphins were swimming so close to shore include being lost, confused by changing tides, or possibly diseased.
But the pattern of the stranding does not indicate a possible reason why they should be coming ashore. Moore told Goldenberg: “In the ones we are finding alive, we are not seeing any consistent diseases or anything indicating a pattern as to why they might be stranding.” Most of the live dolphins are reported as healthy, and necropsies were performed on the dead ones but lab results are pending.
CNN reports that beached animals are susceptible to sunburn, predators and organ damage. When found, volunteers roll them over on the stomachs to help them breathe. The volunteers also keep seagulls away from the animals to prevent the birds from pecking at the dolphins. Volunteers also cool the animals with water or warm them with blankets as needed.
The volunteers at the International Fund for Animal Welfare are fitting some of the dolphins with satellite tags so they can be tracked after release. Brian Sharp, a representative of the International Fund for Animal Welfare told ABC News that, “We release them off of beaches where it gets deep quite quickly. From all these signs that we´ve seen from this event, the satellite tags look very good.”
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