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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01/13/14 5:00pm
01/13/2014 5:00 PM
RICK HALL PHOTO | A dead dolphin found dead Sunday along a small island in the westernmost end of Goose Creek in Southold.

RICK HALL PHOTOS | A dead dolphin found dead Sunday along a small island in the westernmost end of Goose Creek in Southold.

Update: Riverhead Foundation rescue program director Kimberly Durham said a dolphin found dead Sunday in Southold has been recovered and positively identified as a common dolphin.

Biologists received help from Southold Police Department in reaching the carcass, Ms. Durham said.

A necropsy will be performed on the animal to determine a cause of death.

Original story: A dead dolphin was found washed up along an island in a shallow Southold creek Sunday.

Riverhead Foundation officials are asking for help from police in reaching the animal.

Riverhead Foundation officials are asking for help from police in reaching the animal.

The animal was spotted in Goose Creek about 3 p.m. by Rick Hall, a Southold chiropractor and avid outdoorsman who said he’s never seen a dolphin in local waters in his 50 years of canoeing and kayaking the area.

Seagulls and crows had surrounded the dolphin and were pecking at it when he came upon the marine mammal while kayaking, he said.

“It didn’t smell,” Dr. Hall said. “The body was in excellent shape other than the eyes were taken out by the seagulls. The birds were pecking at it but hadn’t penetrated its body.”

The Riverhead Foundation rescue group has been alerted and is trying to coordinate with police to recover the carcass, since it’s not reachable by land, said Kimberly Durham, rescue program director for the marine research and rescue organization.

The foundation also received reports on Friday, Jan. 3, of a live dolphin in the same creek, Ms. Durham noted.

“We got a call for a live dolphin” close to the bridge in Goose Creek, she said. “We mounted a response to go and see what was going on. But it was gone when I arrived on scene. The animal was free swimming and had been observed beaching itself and thrashing on a sand bar.”

A photograph taken by a resident revealed that animal to be a common dolphin, which appeared to be an adult, she said.

She could not say if the dead dolphin found Sunday was the same animal.

The dead dolphin is on the shore of a small island on the westernmost end of Goose Creek, Dr. Hall said. The bridge is on the easternmost end.

“It’s probably just a youngster that got lost and got stranded on a sand bar and panicked and drowned,” he said. “I opened its mouth. I looked inside to make sure it didn’t choke on anything. It didn’t appear to. Its teeth were good.”

Ms. Durham 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.”

If foundation researchers are able to recover the carcass, a necropsy would reveal if the dolphin died of age or, for example, a parasite — and if any human interaction played a hand, such as in the case of marine debris, Ms. Durham said.

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