Animal Rescue In the Bitter Cold
This past week has been a clear indicator that marine mammal strandings are at another high this year. This time last year IFAW, who provides volunteer support to the Cape Cod Stranding Network (CCSN), responded to an above average number of marine mammal strandings, mostly dolphins.
Again, this year has started of in frighteningly high numbers. So far, 29 animals have stranded! The types of animals that tend to strand on the Cape range from common and white-sided dolphins to pilot whales to several seal species. This area is rich in marine life, and one of the benefits of working on Cape Cod!
Yesterday, 4 of us from the Emergency Relief team responded to an early morning call that several dolphins where spotted in the Welfleet harbor area. Once onsite, we each joined teams that were assigned to care for and sling the stranded dolphins. “Sling” meaning to place the animal on a sling-type carrying device that supports the animal’s body above ground.
In most cases, marine mammal strandings happen in marsh areas where it’s extremely difficult to drive a rescue trailer. In this case, the animals needed to be transported to another area on the Cape deemed a safer release area. Therefore, the use of a rescue trailer was necessary. However, the predicament of the marsh existed.
On the count of 3, all 8 people surrounding the dolphin carrying the sling began to move inch my inch, slowly approaching the trailer. All four animals that had stranded where eventually placed securely onto the trailer for immediate transport. In a 10+ car caravan IFAW, CCSN and additional volunteers traveled to the Atlantic side of the Cape.
Once at the release site, the dolphins where carried into the shallow water of the Atlantic Ocean and lined parallel next to each other. This point in the release is crucial and dangerous. The animal’s behavior is unpredictable once it sense’s the open ocean and the undertow even in the shallow water can be powerful.
The dolphins required no release signal; they told us when they were ready to go out into the deep blue and that was our cue to let go of the sling. The last step in the release and the end of our day of rescue was to watch the 3 swim out against the horizon to then meet up with each other. We can only hope that they have found the comfort of home by now.
Go HERE to view a video captured by the Cape Cod Times.