01/20/14 1:23pm
01/20/2014 1:23 PM
SUSAN SMITH PHOTO | The male dolphin swimming at the eastern end of Goose Creek on Jan. 3, nine days before it was found dead.

SUSAN SMITH PHOTO | The male dolphin swimming at the eastern end of Goose Creek on Jan. 3, nine days before it was found dead on the western end of the creek.

The wayward dolphin that turned up dead in Goose Creek last week died of natural causes, researchers have ruled.

The male common dolphin, whose body was found Sunday, Jan. 12, toward the western end of the shallow Southold creek, is also believed to have been the same animal spotted swimming near the creek’s eastern end, on Jan. 3.

RICK HALL PHOTO | The dolphin's carcass washed up along a small island.

RICK HALL PHOTO | The dolphin washed up along a small island on the eastern end of Goose Creek.

“Findings from the necropsy yielded evidence of malnourishment,” said Kim Durham, rescue program director at the Riverhead Foundation, which recovered the carcass with the help of police last Monday.

“The wear pattern on the teeth indicated advanced age,” Ms. Durham continued. “The examination did not find any evidence of marine debris or evidence of fisheries or ship strike.  The death of this individual was ruled to be a natural mortality event. ”

Ms. Durham said biologists also took tissue samples to rule out viral infection.

Southold resident Susan Smith and her husband Justin had spotted the dolphin alive and swimming in Goose Creek on Friday, Jan. 3, and alerted the Riverhead Foundation, which mounted a response but could not locate the animal.

“We watched it for a while and took some photos but it was 10 degrees out and when we turned to go to the car, we looked back and it was gone,” Ms. Smith said. “It was swimming back and forth right in front of the houses and the bridge. He looked fine to me. We are very sorry to see that he has died.”

The carcass was spotted Sunday, Jan. 12, by a kayaker, Southold chiropractor Rick Hall. Dr. Hall snapped photos of the carcass before alerting the Riverhead Foundation, which recovered it the next day and brought it to the organization’s headquarters in downtown Riverhead.

“This individual was originally reported alive to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation hotline number on Jan. 3, 2014,” Ms. Durham also said Sunday. She had stated days earlier that she couldn’t say for sure if the animal reported Jan. 3 was the one later found dead.

Ms. Durham had said common dolphins usually swim out at sea and in groups, so any one dolphin by itself is always cause for concern.

“When we get reports of a single dolphin in this area, it’s called an out-of-habitat sighting,” she said. “We would want to get eyes on the animal, observe how it’s swimming and try to assess it and see if it’s in trouble.”

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