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.
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.
Click on the map below to find Goose Creek.