The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center has responded to a higher number of dead and dying bottlenose dolphins than is typical along the Chesapeake Bay, this time of year. No cause for these deaths has been uncovered as yet, but the Stranding Response Team is working with the NOAA Fisheries to investigate the cause(s).
The Stranding Response Team picks up an average of 99 marine mammals during a calendar year, 64 of which are bottlenose dolphins. Thus far in 2013 they have responded to 82 dolphins, with 44 in July alone. The average number of dolphin strandings for July is 7. Many of the animals are too decomposed to offer much information, but samples from several fresher animals have been collected and will be analyzed. Unfortunately, it can take some time for results and even then, they may be inconclusive.
The most recent strandings appear to be almost exclusively males, of all ages and sizes. The Stranding Response Team is receiving offers of help from other members of the National Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Some of the dolphins will be sent for further examination to North Carolina. Extra stranding network personnel will be used to assist the Aquarium’s team with responses and necropsies (animal autopsies).
Stranding Response staff are working to collect dolphins from the populated beaches as quickly as possible, but warn the public, as with any dead wild animal, do not touch and please wash hands thoroughly if you come in contact with a stranded animal. Residents are asked to call the Stranding Response 24-hour hotline at 757-385-7575 with the exact location of any stranded or dead dolphin, and to be patient as they may not be able to respond immediately.
The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program’s mission is to promote the conservation of marine animal species through stranding response, research, rehabilitation and education. It is largely a volunteer-based group operating from the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center in Virginia Beach. The program is supported by the Virginia Aquarium Foundation through donations from the community, and grant-making organizations. To report a dead or live stranded marine mammal or sea turtle call the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program 24-hour hotline at (757) 385-7575
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