IFAW Urges Public Not to Push Stranded Dolphins Back Into Water

COURTESY OF THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE: IFAW crews rescue a stranded whale last week on the Outer Cape.

COURTESY OF THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE: IFAW crews rescue a stranded whale last week on the Outer Cape.

WELLFLEET – The Outer Cape has seen several dolphin strandings over the last week and the International Fund for Animal Welfare is asking the public to leave the rescuing to professionals.

IFAW Stranding Coordinator Kristen Patchet said the dolphins began stranding on Thursday in Wellfleet Harbor with incidents occurring down to Brewster. Wellfleet harbor is known as a stranding hot spot and is a difficult area for the marine mammals to navigate.

Patchet said many untrained people who come across the stranded animals are trying to push them back in the water, which could cause more harm than good.

“We need to try to get across to people that that’s not the best thing to do in this case. It may seem counter intuitive to people to not touch them or not push them back in the water,” she said. “Pushing them back out to the same area where they originally stranded is generally not a good idea because those animals will more often than not re-strand in another location or we will find them dead at another location later on.”

Patchet said the rescue crews do more than just get the animal back into the water.

“We will get them into our dolphin rescue trailer, assess their health status, give them some treatments to help them combat the stress they have been under and transport them to a beach where they will have more access to open water,” Patchet said.

Small groups of dolphins were first spotted in Wellfleet Harbor on Thursday morning by the harbormaster.

“The harbormaster attempted to herd some of the animals out and we joined him later to join that effort,” Patchet said. “We heard reports that dolphins had come ashore and members of the public had pushed them back into the water.”

IFAW responded to four dolphin strandings Thursday afternoon. One dolphin had already been pushed back out and the rescue crews released the other three from West Dennis Beach.

“One of them we affixed with a satellite tag. That animal is currently about 90 miles east of Truro, just north of Georges Bank,” she said. “We are hoping for the best for that animal and hoping the other two have stayed with it.”

There were reports of more dolphins stranded in Brewster on Friday. Patchet said they again had issues with two of them being pushed back out by the public.

“One we have not seen again. The other came back and died,” Patchet said.

A third dolphin was rescued and released again from West Dennis Beach. She was also tagged and was last transmitting from about 65 miles southeast of Nantucket in the Great South Channel.

IFAW crews also herded a large group of dolphins, 30 or more animals, out of Wellfleet Harbor with the help of the harbormaster. Patchet said they did see another group of dolphins in the area.

“There’s a lot of animals in the area right now,” she said.

Individuals who happen upon a stranded dolphin should contact IFAW’s stranding hotline at 508-743-9548.

“If they don’t have that number on them they can always call their local harbormaster or police departments,” Patchet said. “They all know how to reach us.”

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Call the appropriate stranding response agency for your area. View list here. IFAW is the designated agency for Cape Cod and the South Coast of Massachusetts. The hotline number is (508) 743-9548
  2. Give detailed location information, directions, and a description of the animal and its behavior. Take photos or video if you can as these are always helpful.
  3. Maintain a safe distance – at least 150 feet is recommended under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This prevents the animal from being stressed by your presence and can keep you from getting injured by a thrashing dolphin.
  4. If safe to do so, keep gulls, dogs and other animals away from the dolphin until trained responders can arrive.”

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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