Scores of Dolphins Stranded on Cape Cod

When a single dolphin washed up on Cape Cod on January 12, it was nothing new.

Eight days later, eighty-one more had been found stranded on the coastline. By January 23, the count was eighty-five.

It is common for dolphins to be corralled by the cape’s U-shape and flummoxed by its shallow inlets and extreme tides, but so many dolphins washing up in less than two weeks — sixty-one of which were dead — has baffled researchers and volunteers who work to rescue as many as possible.

Six dolphins turned up on Thursday in “The Gut” of the Herring River, a waterway in the Cape Cod National Seashore that turns into sticky mud at low tide. When researchers arrived, they found five live dolphins gulping for air. The sixth was dead. Hundreds more were being coaxed out another part of Wellfleet Harbor by a small team of rescuers.

The question is why they are all here in the first place.

Some believe it is simply a question of feeding, although the empty stomachs found in the dolphins scientists have dissected suggest otherwise.

There may be a correlation between dolphin strandings and weather oscillations.

In some cases, a sick dolphin can lead its pod off course, but many of the dolphins have so far seemed healthy.

The rescue is slow, backbreaking work. Each animal is rolled on a stretcher and carried by up to nine people to a vehicle.

Volunteers come out in droves to deal with strandings; the animal welfare fund says it has 350 on its rosters. They are needed: by the time each dolphin was driven over the sand dunes and up the road to a medical trailer, where they were given blood tests, hearing tests, ultrasounds and more, the fund scientists were exhausted. Their work would not be finished until they released the dolphins later that night.

Via The New York Times.

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Filed under Environment, Science

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