Photo: Anita Yankova / © IFAW

Ten Dolphins Rescued and Released Following Mass Stranding in Cape Cod

Ten dolphins were successfully rescued and released back into the wild on Wednesday after a near seven-hour stranding ordeal off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The rescue mission was initiated late Tuesday afternoon when staff and volunteers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) received reports of 11 Atlantic white-sided dolphins dangerously close to shore off Wellfleet. The timing of the incident, just three hours before low tide, heightened concerns for the stranded marine mammals.

Eight dolphins were discovered in Duck Creek near the Wellfleet Town Pier, while three were found in a section of the Herring River known locally as “The Gut.” The challenging conditions of these locations, characterized by shallow slopes, hook-like shapes, and extreme tidal fluctuations, posed significant obstacles for the rescue efforts.

“This rescue had many challenges due to the number of dolphins, the difficult mud conditions, and having to deal with two simultaneous mass strandings,” said Lauren Cooley IFAW Stranding Biologist. “The team was able to overcome all of these challenges to give these dolphins their best chance at survival.” 

Six of the dolphins were transported to a deeper water release site off Provincetown, Massachusetts, utilizing IFAW’s innovative mobile dolphin rescue clinic. This specialized vehicle, tailored to the unique needs of Cape Cod’s stranding hotspot, facilitated timely health assessments and stabilization of the dolphins before their release.

Tragically, one dolphin succumbed to trauma associated with the stranding event, underscoring the challenges and risks involved in such operations. However, the remaining ten dolphins were successfully rescued from the treacherous mud and transported to Provincetown for release, marking a significant achievement for the rescue team.

“While the dolphins suffered from stress related to the stranding, we’re very optimistic and full of hope for their return to deeper waters,” added Cooley. 

The comprehensive rescue operation involved approximately 45 individuals, including 15 AmeriCorps members, as well as dedicated IFAW staff and volunteers. Their collective commitment and expertise were instrumental in ensuring the successful rescue and release of the stranded dolphins, underscoring the importance of collaborative conservation efforts in safeguarding marine ecosystems.




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