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More than a dozen dolphins that became stranded Thursday in Wellfleet were rescued by members of an animal welfare organization and successfully transported to deeper waters in Provincetown, where the animals swam away into the sunset.

Staff and volunteers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare received a call late in the afternoon that six Atlantic white-sided dolphins were swimming in a cove near Chequessett Neck Road. When the rescue team arrived around 2:30 p.m., it realized there were about 16 dolphins, which eventually became beached as the tide went out.

The dolphins were captured and later released at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown.


Katie Moore, a spokeswoman for the welfare group, said the dolphins were freed in four groups. After assessing their health, the group determined the dolphins could survive on their own.

“At least two animals were deemed in guarded condition, but given our past success in release, we felt comfortable giving these animals a chance to survive in the wild,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Two of the dolphins had satellite tags attached to their dorsal fins, she said.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Atlantic white-sided dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. They are known to be particularly nimble and playful, can grow to be 400 to 500 pounds, and live for 25 years.

The boat landing at the Chequessett Yacht and Country Club was used as the staging area for the rescue. The club’s general manager, Barbara Boone, took photos of the group’s efforts to save the dolphins from a muddy area where they became stuck.

The pictures, posted on the club’s Facebook page, show the dolphins lined up along the beach. Some show them being loaded onto stretchers and into trailers and a pickup truck.


Additional photos posted to Facebook by people who were in Provincetown when some of the dolphins were freed, show the animals swimming off toward a bright, dipping sun.

Local residents, volunteers, and officials from the Center for Coastal Studies and the National Park Service assisted with the rescue mission.

“The public at both the stranding site and release site were incredibly helpful and supportive,” Moore said. “We can’t thank them and our wonderful volunteers enough.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.