IFAW Rescues Five Stranded Common Dolphins In Massachusetts & Releases Them Back Into Their Ocean Home

Photos By: IFAW

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) rescued and released five common dolphins off Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, Massachusetts this week. The dolphins had been stranded in two separate locations and were transported to deeper waters where they could be released as a pod for the greatest chance of survival.

The first call to IFAW’s Stranding Hotline came in before 7:00 AM on Monday, alerting the Marine Mammal Rescue & Research team to a mother and calf stranded off Ellis Landing in Brewster. Sadly, the calf, a young dependent male, died of unknown causes before IFAW staff arrived on the scene.

Soon after, IFAW received a report of seven dolphins in the shallow flats off Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet. One dolphin died before staff was on the scene, and two others swam off as the tide came in.

All five remaining dolphins from Brewster and Wellfleet were transported via IFAW’s custom-built mobile response vehicle to Provincetown, where beaches provide quick access to deep water and open ocean. While on the road – in a vehicle capable of transporting up to nine common dolphins at one time – IFAW veterinarians and biologists monitored the animals’ health, administer fluids, and check for signs of illness or distress.

Extreme low tide levels may have played a role, given this week’s full moon. The two incidents may have been connected, given the timing and close proximity to their stranding locations. It is difficult to say if something about the two deaths contributed to the stranding event overall.

“Stranding events are extremely stressful on dolphins. IFAW’s team has worked hard to minimize the impacts of these events and get them back into deep water as quickly and safely as possible. The heat during summer strandings, as was the case here, can make the situation far worse for these animals and tough on rescuers,” Misty Niemeyer, IFAW Stranding Coordinator, told WAN.

“Most of the animals responded very well to the care received; however, one animal showed more elevated signs of stress. As a result, a temporary satellite tag was affixed onto his dorsal fin to monitor his location after his recue and release,” said Niemeyer. “The tag shows that the dolphin remains a few miles off Cape Cod Bay, a very positive sign as we continue to track him over the upcoming days and weeks. It is critical that our work be done quickly, effectively, and using the best available science to ensure the safe rescue and release of this incredible marine species.”

Brewster Department of Natural Resources provided onsite staff support of the dolphin stranded in Brewster. In Wellfleet, the Harbormaster has a boat in the water helping to locate the two additional dolphins. The US National Park Service was a tremendous help clearing space for release on a busy day at Herring Cove.

Responders monitored the area over the following 24 hours. In addition, satellite tracking assisted in post-release monitoring of the one dolphin that appeared stressed by the stranding event.

For marine mammal strandings please use the following hotlines:

  • On CAPE COD, in Sagamore, or along the southern coast up to RI, call IFAW’s Stranding Hotline at (508) 743-9548

  • For PLYMOUTH, MA, and points north Gloucester and MARTHA’S VINEYARD call NOAA at (866) 755-6622.

  • For NEW HAMPSHIRE to Essex, MA, call Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Strandings at (603) 997-9448

  • For MAINE, call Marine Mammals of Maine (800) 532-9551

  • For NANTUCKET, call Marine Mammal Alliance Nantucket (833) 667-6626

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