After working for an entire day, rescuers successfully saved two dolphins from stranding on Cape Cod.
Reports first came in to the International Fund for Animal Welfare at about 9 a.m. last Thursday that multiple dolphins were seen swimming near the mouth of the Herring River in Wellfleet. IFAW, a global nonprofit, operates a marine mammal rescue team based on Cape Cod.
Volunteers and staff members with the organization went out to the location, off of Wellfleet Harbor. They remained there for the morning, looking out for the animals, according to IFAW. Finally, two common dolphins were spotted near “the gut,” an area near the entrance to the river that is known for its shallow mud flats. These are difficult to navigate for dolphins, and stranding is a real concern.
“With an 11:00 a.m. high tide on our side, we mobilized to herd the dolphins back out to deeper water,” IFAW Animal Rescue Responder and Stranding Biologist Lauren Cooley said in a statement.
Rescuers loaded into three vessels, including a 15-foot inflatable and two from the Wellfleet Harbormaster. Crew from the town joined in to help the IFAW team with their herding efforts.
But after nearly five hours, the herding was deemed unsuccessful, as the animals were still trapped near the river mouth. At around 4 p.m., IFAW experts made the call to extract the dolphins and release them in deeper waters elsewhere. The organization’s “one-of-a-kind mobile dolphin rescue vehicle” was driven to Chequesset Neck Road, which spans the entrance to the river.
“It was a long, tiring day for these dolphins, and with the tide going out, we knew their greatest chance for survival was to transport them to deeper waters,” Cooley said in a statement. “With our mobile capabilities, we were able to give the dolphins a full physical exam, treatment, and supportive care to counter the effects of being trapped in shallow water.”
After being loaded up into the rescue vehicle, the dolphins were brought to Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown. Conditions there were optimal for their release, and the animals were safely let go around sunset. Through the use of temporary satellite tags, researchers will monitor their whereabouts to make sure they do not immediately get back into a dangerous situation.
Dolphins strand more frequently on Cape Cod than anywhere else in the world, according to IFAW. Rescuers from the organization have responded to more than 5,000 marine mammal stranding incidents since 1998. About 80% of stranded dolphins are successfully released back into the wild. Nine dolphins were saved from Wellfleet Harbor over a two-day period in May.
This year, IFAW opened a new short-term dolphin hospital in a renovated retail space in downtown Orleans. Described as an “ICU for dolphins,” this facility is designed to rehabilitate the animals and make sure they can be released back into the wild within four days. It is staffed by four full-time workers, and includes two 15-foot treatment pools.
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