Clinical assessment and postrelease monitoring of 11 mass stranded dolphins on Cape Cod, Massachusetts




The health, postrelease movements, and behavior of mass stranded Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus) and short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, were evaluated. Health was assessed through physical examination and blood analysis. Eleven dolphins (eight white-sided dolphins and three common dolphins) were relocated, outfitted with satellite transmitters, and released during seven mass stranding events. Five transmitters recorded only location, and six also included a time-depth recorder. Transmission duration ranged from 8 h to 218 d, with a mean of 117 d (median = 118 d, SD = 82 d), after release. All dolphins demonstrated extensive movement throughout the Gulf of Maine. The distribution of tagged dolphins was considered normal based on comparisons with published data for these species. Excluding the dolphin that transmitted for only 8 h, mean minimum speeds for individual dolphins ranged from 3.4 to 6.6 km/h; overall mean for all dolphins was 5.4 km/h (SD = 0.9 km/h). The five dolphins with time-depth recorders had mean dive depths of 8.6–40.3 m and mean dive durations of 46–296 s. Hematologic and biochemical data revealed only minor abnormalities. Data suggest that at least 10 of the 11 dolphins were likely successfully reintroduced into the wild.