Tracks left by marine mammal rescuers were visible from the air after three common dolphins were found stranded at Bee’s River Marsh, near First Encounter Beach in Eastham on January 2. By the time a team from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) arrived at the scene, all three dolphins had died.
Dolphin strandings are not uncommon in the winter and early spring, but there have been more than usual so far this year, said Olivia Guerra, stranding technician and the Marine Mammal Rescue and Research division of IFAW.
Common dolphins, like other pelagic marine mammals, are accustomed to the open sea. “They don’t understand tides,” said Guerra, so when their food source swims close to the shore, stranding becomes a risk.
Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, IFAW responded to 40 cases of stranded marine mammals. Most of them were dolphins, Guerra said, but one was a humpback whale found at Race Point in Provincetown.
On Jan. 3, IFAW responded to three live dolphins stranded behind the Audubon Sanctuary in Wellfleet; one dolphin died before responders arrived but two were relocated and released at Herring Cove. On January 10, the team responded to another live stranding in Wellfleet, at the Herring River Gut. The female common dolphin was tagged and released at Herring Cove.
The best thing to do if you encounter a stranded marine mammal, said Guerra, is to keep back, keep quiet, and call the IFAW hotline: 508-743-9548. —Tessera Knowles-Thompson