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After the pod of thirteen dolphins beached themselves at First Encounter Beach in Eastham, MA, IFAW's Marine Mammal rescue team worked as quickly as possible to return the healthy animals to open water.
“Two of the animals died almost immediately after stranding,” said Katie Moore, IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue team manager, “but fortunately we were able to transport eleven remaining dolphins to Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown and release them to the safety of open water. This is the largest number of dolphins we have ever rescued and released at one time.”
Common dolphins are social animals that depend upon the safety and resources of the group in order to survive. An entire pod of dolphins may follow sick or injured animals from their group to shore resulting in a mass stranding.
“Although it has happened before, mass strandings of dolphins are uncommon at this time of year. This stranding was quite unexpected,” said Moore. “Rescuing this many animals at one time was amazing.”
The team of five IFAW staff along with dozens of trained volunteers and local beachgoers lifted each stranded dolphin into dolphin slings. Two by two, the 175 pound to 250 pound animals were moved to rescue trailers lined with soft mats. Before releasing the animals, IFAW’s marine biologists and veterinarian ran full health assessments on the dolphins.
“When dolphins strand it’s very stressful for them -- similar to a car accident for humans,” said CT Harry, IFAW’s stranding coordinator. “While they’re out of the water, we keep them as comfortable as we can. We place the dolphins face to face in a star pattern so they can communicate, remove any sand from their eye area, and pour water over them regularly to keep them from overheating.”
GreaterGood.org supports IFAW’s marine mammal rescue efforts through the Gifts That Give More program.
Photo courtesy of IFAW: dolphins laid in star pattern so they can see each other.