A juvenile dolphin that was discovered on the beach near the Mecox Cut in Bridgehampton on Saturday appeared to have been dead for a couple days before it was found, but the cause of death was not apparent, said Robert DiGiovanni, the executive director and senior biologist of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, on Monday.
DiGiovanni said the short-beaked common dolphin was 138 centimeters long, which means it was 1 or 2 years old.
“Common dolphins are one of the more commons animals we encounter," DiGiovanni said. Other cetaceans routinely seen by the Riverhead Foundation, which responds when marine mammals are found distressed or deceased on New York beaches, are harbor porpoises, pilot whales and white-sided dolphins, he said.
The only visible trauma that could be observed was damage to the animal's eye, but, he said, “That was probably due to scavenger damage, probably birds from the beach.”
The foundation plans to perform a necropsy — an animal autopsy — on the dolphin soon, but DiGiovanni said a seal found earlier at another location needed to be examined first.
The results of the dolphin necropsy could take months, as biologists await results from samples sent out to laboratories for tests, he said.
DiGiovanni said the Riverhead Foundation may have to stop responding to every report of a dead sea mammal and sea turtle in the state, as it does now, because of budget constraints as money dries up. For instance, he said funding for the federal John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, which is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been cut and the foundation lost out on $100,000. The foundation's annual budget is about $900,000.
He said the frequency of dead and distressed animals washing up is increasing, while the funding is decreasing.
Living animals will have to take priority, such as a harbor porpoise from Maine that was admitted just prior to Superstorm Sandy hitting the Northeast, DiGiovanni said. Because of cuts, Riverhead is the only facility that has kept its dolphin rehabilitation tank open, he said, and without it, the porpoise would have been put down.
The harbor porpoise is slated to be released into the ocean Sunday, about 5 miles south of the Shinnecock Inlet, he said.
- May 2012: Dead Dolphin Washes Up on Sagaponack Beach
- August 2012: Dead Whale Washes Up in Hampton Bays