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6 rare dolphins found dead, washed ashore after Hurricane Sally in south Alabama

(Dauphin Island Sea Lab)
(Dauphin Island Sea Lab)
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DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. (WPMI) — The Dauphin Island Sea Lab reported that six Atlantic spotted dolphins were found dead in the marsh on the north side of the Island on Friday, September 25.

DISL said this is the first mass stranding of its kind in the state of Alabama. The spotted dolphins, all females, appeared to have stranded alive several days before they were discovered.

Atlantic spotted dolphins are offshore dolphins that occupy waters along the continental shelf and can also be found in deep, oceanic habitats. They have distinct spots and are smaller than bottlenose dolphins that are commonly seen in the coastal waters of Alabama. It is rare for this species to strand on the coast of Alabama, with the last stranding documented in January of 2018.

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“The animals likely came into the Mississippi Sound during Hurricane Sally, after becoming disoriented in the Gulf,” said Stranding Coordinator Mackenzie Russell with the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN). “We often see an increase in offshore species of dolphins and whales stranding after large storm events. Unfortunately, these dolphins stranded in a remote marsh location that delayed their discovery and reporting to the stranding network.”

The ALMMSN is the state network for response and recovery of sick, injured, and deceased marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales. DISL said a paddle boarder in Graveline Bay discovered the mass stranding near Dauphin Island. Staff from the ALMMSN responded to the scene and found the dolphins. Many of the dolphins were hidden from sight in the tall marsh grass.

All six dolphins were examined at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Marine Mammal Research Center on Saturday, September 26.

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“The major finding during examination was nearly empty stomachs, indicating the animals had not eaten in some time. Unfortunately, decomposition of the tissues limits our ability to interpret findings, which happens often with deceased animals in the Alabama heat, and highlights the importance of rapid reporting and response,” said ALMMSN Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Bloodgood.

If you find a sick, injured, or deceased marine mammal in the Southeast United States, call 1-877-WHALE-HELP (942-5343) as soon as possible.

DISL said to never push a live stranded animal back into the water because it can prevent trained responders and veterinarians from providing timely care.

Mass strandings are rare along the northern Gulf Coast, and information collected by ALMMSN from this stranding of will be crucial to better understand the effects of storm events on marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Be sure to report any sick, injured, and/or deceased marine mammals in Alabama to the 24/7 ALMMSN Stranding Hotline at 1-877-WHALE-HELP (942-5343).

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