Stranded Marine Mammal Rescue and Research - GlobalWhen the tide is low, the stakes are high for marine mammals
(Cape Cod, MA – May 18, 2022) – Following initial calls to its Stranding Hotline, and the threat of an outgoing tide, local experts from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) deployed this morning to the rescue of seven Atlantic white-sided dolphins in Wellfleet, MA.
Thanks to a strong local community and IFAW’s extensive volunteer network, initial photos at 7 a.m. suggested at least three dolphins were stranding in the shallow gut of Herring River. Wellfleet is a common location for mass stranding events due to its shape as a hook within the hook of Cape Cod’s shoreline, and because of large tidal fluctuations in Cape Cod Bay.
Responders arrived on-site just before 8 a.m., which also marked the morning low tide in Wellfleet. All told, more than 40 staff, interns, AmeriCorps members and trained volunteers were on-site. The National Park Service also assisted with managing crowds and logistics for the event.
“The first course of action when we arrived was to coordinate how best to access the dolphins and get our equipment out to their challenging location,” said Misty Niemeyer, Animal Rescue Officer for IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue & Research team. “The dolphins appeared alert and in good health, but the day was sure to be sunny and warm and we needed to move quickly.”
Niemeyer added that the tide was beginning to come back in. “Our team faced the increased difficulty of rising waters, but we know from experience that it’s not an option to leave the dolphins in this area, because they often get caught in a repetitive cycle of tides and re-strand.”
The IFAW team used cooling blankets on the dolphins that, when soaked in water, act to maintain a healthy body temperature for animals (such as horses) in hot weather.
All seven dolphins were transported to a deeper water release site off Provincetown, traveling in IFAW's mobile dolphin rescue clinic. This one-of-a-kind vehicle was custom designed to meet the needs of what is considered a global stranding hotspot on Cape Cod. The vehicle—through the generosity of donors—enables IFAW experts and veterinarians to treat as many as nine dolphins at a time for dehydration and shock caused by stranding.
"Today’s rescue and release went about as smoothly as we could hope, thanks to incredible support from our IFAW volunteer responders, AmeriCorps Cape Cod and this local community,” said Niemeyer. “The largest and final released dolphin did appear a bit stressed, and we fitted that dolphin with a temporary satellite tag to monitor its success. We released the dolphins in three rounds, and eventually all swam off strong into deeper water. We are optimistic about their journey ahead."
At lengths of approximately 6–8 feet (183–244cm)—the largest weighing approximately 250lbs (113kg)—today's stranded dolphins were most likely all sub-adult males. This pattern has been seen before with Atlantic white-sided dolphins—younger males traveling separately from females and calves. Atlantic white-sided dolphins can be unpredictable when it comes to the time of year they strand.
The dolphins were released off Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown in a staggered release (three, two and two dolphins) from 1:30–2 p.m. Wednesday. IFAW will monitor the progress of the pod via the one dolphin’s satellite tag in the coming days.
Photo editors: High resolution images available HERE (© IFAW)
· On CAPE COD, in Sagamore or along the southern coast up to RI, call or text IFAW’s Stranding Hotline at (508) 743-9548
· For PLYMOUTH, MA and points north Gloucester and MARTHA’S VINEYARD: NOAA at (866) 755-6622.
· NEW HAMPSHIRE to Essex, MA: Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammals Strandings at (603) 997-9448,
· MAINE: Marine Mammals of Maine (800) 532-9551
· NANTUCKET: Marine Mammal Alliance Nantucket (833) 667-6626
About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org
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