(May 04, 2017) --

Courtesy Susan Rouillier.

The Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network received a call of a dolphin stranding on Bay Front Road on Monday, May 1. 
 
ALMMSN team members Anika Knight, Catherine Reynolds and Matt Hodanbosi responded to the area, and found the dolphin had washed on to the rocks. The work of the team caught the attention of some community members including Susan Rouillier, who shared several pictures of the team in action with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. 
 
"I was very impressed with the group who came out and successfully pulled this guy out from the rocks. It wasn't easy, but they did it," Susan Rouillier said via email.
 
Noel Wingers, ALMMSN Stranding Coordinator, said the dolphin was in bad shape and a cause of death could not be determined from the initial necropsy. Several samples were collected from the dolphin to help determine the cause of death, as well as aid in the continuing research efforts of ALMMSN. 

Courtesy Susan Rouillier.

"We learn more about population status and health of individuals by sampling for toxins, contaminants, harmful algal blooms, metals, viruses or bacteria," Wingers said. 
 
“The condition of a carcass when it is recovered can affect our ability to determine cause of death and can limit the type of samples we are able to collect,” Dr. Ruth Carmichael added. “This is why calls from the public, whenever they see an animal in distress or washed ashore, are important.  They help us to respond quickly and collect the best possible information.”

Information collected from strandings helps scientists like Dr. Carmichael understand why the strandings occur. 

In 2011, there was an unusually high death rate among dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Between January and April 2011, 186 bottlenose dolphins, including 86 near-term or newborns, washed ashore in the region. Findings from an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event survey helped scientists to understand why. 

Dr. Carmichael was the lead author on the paper published in PLoS ONE, which determined three factors led to the strandings and deaths: cold weather, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and large volumes of cold fresh water from melting snow entering Mobile Bay in 2011. 

This is just one of many publications authored by Dr. Carmichael with the help of data collected by public reports of marine mammal strandings. To read more of her publications, visit her faculty page here.

As of May 2, ALMMSN has received 21 reported cetacean strandings, as well as one dead manatee and initiated a manatee rescue. 
 
If you encounter a stranded marine mammal, contact ALMMSN or the Manatee Sighting Network to make a report.  

  • For dolphin and whale strandings (live or carcasses) call 1-877- WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343)
  • For manatee strandings (live or carcasses) call 1-866- 493-5803
  • Report manatee sightings to DISL’s Manatee Sighting Network at manatee.disl.org