Sunday, December 11, 2005

9 Pilotwhales and 24 Common dolphins stranded along Cape Cod Bay

December 11, 2005

Friday's unpredictable blizzard likely caused stranding deaths of pilot whales and dolphins along Cape Cod Bay

BREWSTER - Friday's quick-blast storm may have been a contributing factor to the deaths of nine pilot whales and 24 common dolphins along Cape Cod Bay from Barnstable to Brewster.
Most of the animals were found dead, but five of the pilot whales and seven common dolphins were euthanized yesterday, reported Kristen Patchett, stranding coordinator for the Cape Cod Stranding Network.
''These animals were in pretty rough condition,'' Patchett said. ''There were signs that they were going into shock. It's always a tough decision to put an animal down, one that we take very seriously, but in (yesterday's) case it was clear that it was the right thing to do to prevent suffering.''
Patchett said there was a report of a dolphin stranded on the bayside in Wellfleet that apparently made it back to deeper water. ''But we don't know what condition the dolphin was in,'' she said.
All in all, a rough day for the stranding folks. Even as Patchett and several volunteers packed up their gear at Breakwater Beach in Brewster after tending to the whales, their cell phones were jangling with more distressed dolphin news. ''Sorry, we've got to go,'' said Patchett, pointing her van toward Barnstable Harbor.
Katie Touhey, executive director of the Cape Cod Stranding Network, said there might be a delay in disposing of the animals because town trucks were busy dealing with storm debris.
Jim McCutcheon of Brewster said there was still a 20-foot pilot whale laying under a tarp on Robbins Hill Beach in Brewster yesterday afternoon. ''They've tagged him but haven't picked him up yet,'' he said.
Patchett said a number of the animals may have become trapped in shallow water areas during the storm surge Friday night. The stranding network was notified of several animals in trouble Friday evening but could not respond because of road closures and storm conditions.
Officials think the storm, with its high winds and larger-than-normal tidal fluctuations, may have contributed to the strandings, but cautioned that other reasons including illness could have played a part.
While same-species strandings are relatively common on Cape Cod, with five common dolphins stranded in October, Patchett said the last multi-species stranding she could recall occurred in 1997, which adds weight to the theory that Friday's storm played a critical role in the animals' demise.
Necropsies on several of the animals are scheduled to be performed today. Scientists will be looking for signs of illness and also will note basic information such as size, approximate age and sex.
According to the American Cetacean Society Web site, pilot whales, generally all-black to coal grey in color, can grow to 20 feet long and weigh up to 3 tons. They feed mainly on squid.
Common dolphins have a colorful, complex crisscross or hourglass color pattern on their sides, can grow to approximately 8½ feet, and feed primarily on squid and schooling fish.

(Published: December 11, 2005)

Whales and dolphins die after stranding on Cape
BREWSTER, Mass. (AP) December 11,2005

At least nine pilot whales and 24 dolphins died after stranding on the shores of Cape Cod Bay this weekend.
Experts say Friday's snow storm may have contributed to their deaths.
Five of the whales and seven of the common dolphins had to be euthanized. The rest of the animals were found dead.
Kristen Patchett of the Cape Cod Stranding Network, says some of the animals were in shock and appeared to be suffering.
Necropsies are to be performed today on several of the animals.
Officials suspect that high winds and strong tidal fluctuations caused the dolphins and whales to become trapped in shallow water.
However, the stranding network says illnesses also can contribute to strandings.
Mass strandings are not rare. Eighteen dolphins stranded on Massachusetts beaches during a storm in April 2003. And more than 50 pilot whales stranded on Cape Cod in July 2002.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Mass stranding of whales, dolphins on Cape Cod investigated
Mon Dec 12, 2005 11:47 AM ET

BOSTON (Reuters) - Animal protection workers were investigating on Monday the mass stranding and death of 24 pilot whales and 15 dolphins during a winter storm on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Strong winds and tidal surges during a powerful storm on Friday likely trapped the mammals, leading to the biggest mass stranding of whales on Cape Cod in three years, said Kristen Patchett of the Cape Cod Stranding Network.
Most of the dolphins and whales died Saturday.
Animal welfare workers euthanized seven of the dolphins and five whales which showed signs of suffering from shock. "We didn't feel they would survive if they were put back in the water," said Patchett.
The dolphins were found on beaches mostly near Barnstable, about 60 miles southeast of Boston on Cape Cod Bay. The whales were found beached a further 15 miles east in Brewster, said Patchett.
Strandings of whales and dolphins are common on Cape Cod, a summer resort region known for its beaches. From 1999 to 2004, Patchett's group responded to an average of 204 strandings of marine mammals a year.
But strandings of two species at once is rare and could be due to Friday's powerful storm, said Patchett. The last time two species were stranded at once on Cape Cod was in 1997.
"The usual causes are groups that get into shallow areas and when the tide goes out they become trapped," she said. In October, her group rescued five stranded dolphins, she added.
Pilot whales, which are generally all-black to coal gray in color, can measure up to 20 feet and weigh up to 3 tons. Adult females can measure up to 16 feet.

Storm brings whales, dolphins ashore
By Rich Eldred/
Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday night's semi-hurricane not only caused destruction on land, it created treacherous conditions beneath the sea as well.
Overnight and into Saturday morning, 38 sea mammals - pilot whales and dolphins - were beached on the Bay side.
"The first call we received was Friday night right after the big storm. There was a dolphin in Dennis and a pilot whale in Brewster," Kristen Patchett, standing coordinator for the Cape Cod Stranding Network recalled. "Route 6A was shut down and on the advice from the police we did not respond, so we knew something would be happening the next day."
It was as if the storm apparently caught the sea mammals unaware.
"The first report was Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Three pilot whales had beached and on the way there was a report of a dolphin in Barnstable. Throughout the day there were more. Most of the animals were dead. We ended up with 23 dolphins and 15 pilot whales."
Most of the mammals stranded from Barnstable through Brewster, all on the Bay side. Wellfleet, Eastham and Truro turned up one animal each.
It was most likely a combination of high winds, tides, shallows and foraging that led to the mammals' demise.
"What I think happened, and this is speculation," Patchett said, "is the animals stranded Friday at low tide. They may or may not have been refloated and stranded again at the next low tide. They were all pretty high on the beach so they came in at high tide and the storm surge pushed them up higher than they're usually seen."
The hurricane winds themselves wouldn't have pushed the animals ashore.
"What can happen is these are social animals and they're often in large groups," Patchett explained. "It's a little unusual to have two species involved but it's not uncommon for then to travel together. This is speculation but they may have been foraging or exploring and they were caught in an area where the tide was dropping. The storm definitely contributed and may have made it more difficult to navigate out of shallow areas of the Cape. A storm could confuse the group."
It's not uncommon for whales or dolphins to strand over a wide area. Patchett remembered a stranding in 1997 that littered the shores of Cape Cod Bay. The shallow bayside is most often the site but strandings do occur on the deeper open ocean shore.
Strandings are also more common during the colder months of the year.
Many of the network's usual responders were away at a conference, but it would have made little difference as too many roads were impassible Friday night.
"We have 4 1/2 staff members and most were away," Patchett noted. "We also work very closely with the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay, and the New England Aquarium responded as well. We also have a bunch of volunteers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the International Wildlife Coalition."
She praised local municipalities.
"We got incredible support and help from towns even though they were dealing with a crisis," said Patchett.


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