Friday, January 27, 2006

13 White-sided dolphins beach themselves in Wellfleet, Cape Cod

13 dolphins beach themselves in Wellfleet
It was 7th mass stranding along Cape Cod this winter
By Cristina Silva and Phil McKenna, Globe Staff And Globe Correspondent | January 28, 2006

WELLFLEET -- In at least the seventh mass stranding on Cape Cod this winter, 13 dolphins beached themselves in Wellfleet yesterday afternoon, sending dozens of volunteers scrambling to try to rescue the animals, authorities said. Eight of the animals were dead or were euthanized after workers were unable to save them.

Officials believe the animals came into the bay looking for food and were disoriented by the tides, said Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the New England Aquarium.

Mass strandings have become frequent sightings along the shores of the Cape Cod Bay this winter, during which a total of 72 dolphins and 18 pilot whales were swept to shore and unable to return to the water independently.

Some of the animals died from the shock of being out of water, which gradually caused their organs to stop working. Most of the animals had to be euthanized because they became too ill from the shock to be returned to the ocean, LaCasse said.

LaCasse said he and other environmentalists have no idea why the animals are now coming to the shores in such numbers.

''It's what everyone wants to know, but we just don't know why," he said. ''We sometimes could go a whole winter with having only two or three strandings, but already we have had seven."

Aquarium officials received a call reporting the beached dolphins at about noon yesterday, LaCasse said. More than 30 volunteers rushed out in the cold to save the dolphins, which were beached in five different parts of Wellfleet Harbor, LaCasse said.

When the volunteers arrived, many of the dolphins were severely ill. Some of the dolphins had severe tissue damage around their eyes from being attacked by sea gulls, who, as predators, tend to peck at anything that moves, LaCasse said.

''It can be a very gruesome thing," he said.

The five remaining healthy dolphins, including a mother and her calf, were each placed on sturdy nylon litters, on which the 400-pound animals were carried by about nine volunteers 100 yards through the dunes to the access road where rescue vans were waiting, LaCasse said.

By 6 p.m. last night, the animals were placed in the vans, and officials drove them north along Route 6 to a suitable deep water release point, LaCasse said.

The dolphins were released into three-foot surf in Provincetown at about 8 p.m. Four of the dolphins headed out to sea, but one had to be pointed in the right direction after it began swimming along the shore instead of swimming to deeper water, LaCasse said.

Officials believe the animals will recover safely, said Katie Touhey, director of Cape Cod Stranding Network, which helped with the rescue. ''There is nothing like knowing that you might have actually saved some animals' lives," she said.

''You can compare this to a back-country rescue," LaCasse said. ''It takes time to find out where they are, organize the resources, and carry these animals out."

Throughout the rescue, the animals communicated with one another by making a clicking noise, LaCasse said.

''It was very heartwarming and a little heart-stopping," he said, ''You get the sense that they know you are trying to help them."

Of the 13 animals, 10 were common dolphins and three were white-sided dolphins, LaCasse said.

Mass strandings can occur when animals are injured or when they come on shore looking for prey, and become trapped by outgoing tides, LaCasse said.

Most of the strandings this winter occurred along the shores of Cape Cod Bay near Wellfleet, LaCasse said.

Last week, four dolphins died after they were stranded on Jan. 17. Ten dolphins were stranded Jan. 14, and five were rescued.

In the largest stranding this winter, 44 animals, including 18 pilot whales and 26 dolphins, died after they stranded themselves along the shores near Wellfleet after a fierce snowstorm on Dec. 10.

''It is very difficult for the animals to navigate through those waters," LaCasse said. ''They can make mistakes."

Cristina Silva reported from Boston, Phil McKenna from Wellfleet.

© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

13 Dolphins Stranded On Cape Cod

POSTED: 11:33 am EST January 28, 2006
UPDATED: 11:46 am EST January 28, 2006

WELLFLEET, Mass. -- Eight of the 13 dolphins found stranded on Wellfleet beaches Friday either died or had to be euthanized. Officials hope five others will survive.

Tony LaCasse, of the New England Aquarium, said the five surviving dolphins were released Friday at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, where the water is deeper and it's easier for the mammals to make it to open ocean.

Of the 13 dolphins, 10 were common dolphins and three were whitesided dolphins.

Volunteers from the Cape Cod Stranding Network helped carry the animals, each weighing about 300 pounds, about a quarter of a mile to the nearest road, where they were loaded into trucks.

One of the animals was tagged so its movements can be tracked.

Stranded dolphins released into bay

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. More dolphin strandings late yesterday. But this time, there was a happy ending.

Five white-sided dolphins stranded on a sandbar in Provincetown late yesterday afternoon were gently released back into the bay by rescue teams.

The stranding capped three days of dolphin rescue efforts. Teams from the Cape Cod Stranding Network and New England Aquarium have responded to 26 dolphin strandings in the past several days.

Many of them have been released. But others died or were euthanized.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Nature News
Another dolphin stranding off Cape Cod
Jan 29, 2006, 19:00 GMT

WELLFLEET, MA, United States (UPI) -- Massachusetts wildlife officials say they have no idea why so many dolphins and whales have been stranded this winter on Cape Cod.

In the seventh mass stranding on Cape Cod Friday, 13 dolphins beached themselves in Wellfleet. Dozens of volunteers tried to rescue the animals, but eight of the dolphins were dead, or were euthanized, the Boston Globe reported Saturday.

So far this winter, mass stranding incidents at Cape Cod Bay have involved 72 dolphins and 18 pilot whales swept to shore and unable to return to the water independently.

It`s believed the mammals come into the bay looking for food and get disoriented by the tides, said Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the New England Aquarium.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Dire days for dolphins
Dolphin strandings are at an all-time high in Cape Cod Bay for January and experts don't know why.

As of yesterday, 25 common and 14 white-sided dolphins had been found in four mass strandings, mostly on bay beaches from Barnstable to Provincetown. Sixteen others were stranded alone.

A mass stranding refers to two or more animals of the same species, except for a mother and her calf, which is considered a single unit.

The largest stranding this month was in Orleans, where 10 common dolphins washed up in Rock Harbor last weekend.

Yesterday, staff of the Cape Cod Stranding Network successfully released three healthy-looking common dolphins off Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown that had stranded in Wellfleet. They have saved eight dolphins so far this year.

No one knows why so many dolphins have stranded here so early in the winter, said Katie Touhey, director of the stranding network.

But scientists and volunteers are gathering data to solve the mystery. They take blood samples from carcasses to determine if parasites or bacteria were the killers. They perform exams to look for injuries, such as cuts from fishing nets.

They consider weather patterns, wind speeds, water temperatures and tide cycles.

And all dolphins that die undergo a necropsy - an animal autopsy.

''It's frustrating because there are no significant findings in most mass stranding necropsies other than the fact that the animals were involved in a mass stranding event,'' Touhey said.

Touhey listed three leading theories on the high number of dolphin strandings this month:

n Dolphins chasing prey into tidal areas usually frozen in January. Once inside the tidal labyrinths, many can't get out.

n The animals' internal sonar may be confused by recent changes in bottom contours of the sandbars in Cape Cod Bay.

n A sick dolphin may lead other pod members astray into the dangerously shallow flats. ''There is a unique social cohesion between dolphins,'' Touhey said.

Researchers performing necropsies sometimes find parasites in dolphins' ear canals that may affect navigation, said Sarah Bean, an animal care technician at the New England Aquarium in Boston. But, not always. ''There is frequently no smoking gun and that is disheartening,'' Bean said.

''But the data collected is invaluable for determining possible trends or external factors.''

All tissue and organ samples from the stranding network are sent to David Rotstein, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Tennessee, who is trying to build a central stranding database. Information from those on the scene also helps, he said.

''Teamwork is a huge factor,'' he said, ''because the information provided about weather patterns and water conditions from the volunteers may help us draw better conclusions.''

Jason Kolnos can be reached at

(Published: January 27, 2006)

Copyright © Cape Cod Times. All rights reserved.


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