Lagoon dolphin has died

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The Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine brought in its third common dolphin in a week, and says reports of sightings of seals have started

OCEAN CITY — Late last week, when a common dolphin was sighted swimming around in Ocean City’s lagoons, the word was “watch.” This week, with that dolphin and two others along the state’s coast dead, plus reports of seal strandings beginning to come in, the word is “report.”

“We’re too busy picking up animals to watch them,” Bob Schoelkopf said Tuesday morning, Feb. 14 when contacted at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, where he is director. “We have only three people to handle the state of New Jersey. We can’t be sitting by the bay waiting for something to happen. We rely on police departments and people walking on the beach to let us know when they see something. And people need to call as soon as they see something. They can’t wait a week to report it.”

The common dolphin that was seen swimming around the 17th and 18th street lagoons last week appeared lost – as the species generally travels in large groups in the open ocean – but otherwise healthy, so the MMSC monitored its activity and advised onlookers to do no more than watch it.

That dolphin was reported dead on Sunday.

“It panicked and swum under a ladder, and got caught when the tide went out,” Schoelkopf confirmed Feb. 14.

A necropsy, the animal equivalent of an autopsy, was performed Monday on that dolphin, as well as one that washed up in the Delaware Bay in the Villas section of Lower Township. A third dolphin, one rescued alive Monday in a back bay in Manahawkin that died en route to MMSC, will be necropsied Feb. 14 at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Schoelkopf said.

Results could take up to a week before they become available.

Schoelkopf added that reports of seals washing up are beginning to come into the stranding center.

To the casual observer, who might not know the difference between a bottlenose dolphin, which is often sighted off New Jersey’s beaches, and the common dolphin, which generally travels at least 20 miles offshore, Schoelkopf describes the bottlenose as “robust” and the common dolphin as “sleek, with a saddle-shaped design on the back.”

More than 160 common dolphins, most dead, washed up last month in Cape Cod, Mass., with 40 being rescued and released to deeper water, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. There is no known connection between the mass strandings in New England and the three dead dolphins at the Jersey Shore.


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