Metro

More dolphin strandings reported on Cape, but experts say rate has declined since mass stranding event

Three dolphins stranded themselves Tuesday on the beaches of Cape Cod, an animal welfare group said today. The group was able to rescue and release two of the marine mammals, but they had to euthanize the third.

Six dolphins also came ashore in Eastham last week. Two of the six died, but the International Fund for Animal Welfare was able to treat and release the remaining four, spokesman Michael Booth said.

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The latest strandings come after a monthlong mass stranding event, from Jan. 12 to Feb. 14, that saw at least 179 dolphins beach themselves on the roughly 25-mile stretch of coast between Dennis and Wellfleet. Of the dolphins that stranded, 71 were alive when they were found. IFAW was able to successfully release 53 of those dolphins back into deeper waters.

IFAW marshaled an army of volunteers to respond to what was termed the largest single-species stranding event ever reported in the Northeast. The group assessed the condition of the animals, took blood samples, provided necessary medical treatment, and, whenever possible, released them into deeper waters.

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“We run a lot of tests,” Booth said in January. “We draw blood from these dolphins, we do an auditory examination to make sure their hearing is fine, take measurements. ... We note down everything.”

Booth said a total of about a dozen dolphins have stranded since Feb. 14, but that is more in line with what the group typically sees this time of year. The total number of strandings so far this year is still more than three times the annual average, according to IFAW.

Determining what caused the mass strandings could take months, Booth said. The group has worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Navy to investigate an array of possible causes. Booth said the group is not ruling anything out and continues to learn more about the dolphins through lab results and necropsies.

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“We’ve looked into many, many reasons. A lot of them have been weather-related; and sonar was one we looked into,” he said. “With these lab tests, we’re looking into any disease-related patterns. We can’t really discard any reasons outright so we have to do as much as we can to go through the list.”

Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com.
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