Dolphin Washes Up In Poor Condition After Sonar Testing

On Wednesday, February 22nd the Marine Mammal Stranding Center received a call for a stranded Common dolphin on the banks of the Shrewsbury River that had already been pushed back into the water by members of the public. A second call was received stating two to three dolphins were possibly in distress in the river at Hartshorne Woods Park near Lower Rocky Point, however the caller was not the person who witnessed the animals and unfortunately could not provide a location or photos. MMSC Stranding volunteers local to the Highlands area were immediately dispatched to the scene as MMSC staff mobilized from Brigantine, NJ. MMSC volunteer photographer Michael McKenna launched his drone, and with the assistance of Monmouth County Park Rangers and the NJ State Police Marine Division began an aerial search for the dolphins. One male Common dolphin was located approximately 150 yards from the pier, hidden by vegetation, around a bend along a narrow embankment in the marsh. The team hiked through the vegetation to assess the dolphin’s condition and the safety of the path for carrying the dolphin in the stretcher.

The dolphin, which was still alive, was positively identified as the same individual that had been pushed out earlier, based on a distinctive notched-out wound on its peduncle. Due to the hazardous conditions of the path, the NJ State Police Marine Division dispatched one of their vessels and two additional Troopers to assist the Stranding Technician with transporting the dolphin via boat back to the MMSC Stranding Vehicle.
Volunteers continued the search for any additional dolphins, and none were found, so we cannot verify if there had been multiple dolphins in distress.
The dolphin was secured in the vehicle, and assessed by MMSC’s Veterinarian. After veterinary assessment it was determined that the dolphin was in poor body condition and very weak. The decision was made to humanely euthanize the animal to prevent further suffering. The dolphin was immediately transported to Animal Health Diagnostic Lab (NJAHDL), New Jersey Dept. of Agriculture in Trenton where the necropsy is taking place. The laboratory will be following NOAA protocols for sampling freshly deceased cetaceans, and preserving samples for analysis of the ears and other organs. We plan to share additional updates when the initial necropsy results become available.
We want to thank the Monmouth County Park Rangers, NJ State Police Marine Division and MMSC Volunteers who assisted our staff with this very challenging recovery during periods of hail and heavy rain.
We are again reminding the public to never push a stranded animal back into the deeper water, and to please call our 24-hour hotline immediately to report animals in distress. Pushing them back before trained professionals arrive delays or prevents any potential medical intervention, and prolongs suffering. Animals will often re-strand in a different location in worse condition, and as in this case, more difficult areas to access the animal for rescue.
photos- Michael McKenna


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