A pregnant dolphin was stranded in a patch of reeds in Wellfleet Harbor last week, prompting the first stranding rescue on the Cape this year.
A man who was out on a walk spotted three dolphins swimming in the harbor around 9 a.m. on Jan. 13, Jaime Johnson, one of the Wellfleet Harbormaster’s assistants, said.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare was called and about ten volunteers, staff, and interns from the organization arrived at the harbor, Nicole Hunter, an assistant necropsy coordinator at IFAW, said.
Two of the dolphins were herded back into deeper waters by Johnson, who was driving a small boat, and by IFAW crews on a 15-foot inflatable zodiac boat, Hunter said. The two dolphins were likely a mother and her calf, Hunter said.
The remaining dolphin become stranded in a cluster of reeds when crews tried to coax her back to sea.
IFAW crews moved the dolphin onto a specially made dolphin stretcher and brought her to a response trailer in a nearby parking lot for a health assessment, Hunter said.
“She had a plump belly and was acting like she was uncomfortable, so we thought she might be pregnant,” Hunter said.
Crews did an ultrasound on the dolphin in the trailer and confirmed she was carrying a calf. Hunter said the dolphin was healthy and was released in Herring Cove in Provincetown later that day.
Hunter said more dolphins will become stuck on the Cape’s shore this year, since the area is one of the hottest spots for dolphin strandings in the world.
“A vast majority of Cape Cod strandings happen in Wellfleet because there is a lot of tidal fluctuation here,” Hunter said. "An area here could have 11 feet of water at high tide or none at low tide, so when animals swim into marshes and shallow places here, they can easily become stranded. "
If you see a stranded animal or an animal swimming in shallow water near the shore, keep a safe distance and call IFAW’s marine mammal hotline at (508) 743-9548.