IFAW-rescued dolphin sighted in the wild!

This post was submitted by International Fund for Animal Welfare's Misty Niemeyer - Marine Mammal Rescue and Research staff.


Yesterday we received an exciting report! An Atlantic White-sided dolphin that stranded in Wellfleet and was released last month was sighted with a huge group of 300-500 dolphins on Sunday May 16, 2010, by Lisa Barrett from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) while aboard a Hyannis Whale Watcher vessel. Lisa recognized the orange tag on the animal’s dorsal fin and began snapping photos.

After reviewing the photos we realized it was tag #65, which was identified to be IFAW10-113La, an adult female that stranded on Friday March 26, 2010 in Duck Creek in Wellfleet, MA just behind the pier. It was part of a group of 7 Atlantic White-sided dolphins that stranded mid-day. Unfortunately one calf was found dead as staff arrived, however the remaining six adults appeared to be in good health. They were extracted from the mud (like many of our dolphin strandings this year) and then released that evening at Herring Cove in Provincetown, MA.

All six animals were released with orange tags attached to their dorsal fin for future identification. Unfortunately, the following day one of the animals was found dead on a beach in Truro, we are still awaiting test results to try to figure out what may have caused this animal to re-strand.

Getting the news of this sighting was very exciting for us; as this is actually the second sighting of this animal in the wild. On April 20, 2010 the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) was out on one of their typical whale research cruises when they came across this animal swimming in a small group. With this second report, we have solid confirmation that this animal is doing well! Interestingly, both times this animal has been sighted, there has been no sign of the other animals that originally stranded and were released on the same day, giving us insight in the group dynamics of these animals which still remains a mystery!

Reports of released animals are incredibly valuable, it validates that we have made good decisions in the field and that we are doing the right thing. When you release an animal after a hard day working to save them, it is an incredibly rewarding moment; however as stranding responders, we know there is always a chance that they may not survive due to enduring too much stress during the stranding event or a potentially pre-existing health condition. In the past 10 years of stranding response here on Cape Cod, we have come a long way, we have greatly improved our response and care of stranded dolphins, however it is still a relatively new field. While we have access to amazing resources and equipment that assist us in conducting very thorough health examinations, such as blood analysis machines, there is still a lot we do not know about these animals, such as how to interpret some of the blood values for these particular species. These sightings will inevitably play an important role in improving our knowledge of these animals and significantly aiding in the rescue of stranded dolphins in the future!

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