Posts Tagged 'animal rescue'



Unusual Mortality Event Declared in Response to Dolphin Strandings

Animal Rescue Update

Last week, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared an unusual mortality event in the Mid-Atlantic. For the month of July, dolphin mortalities were higher than average for the states of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. Stranding responders in these areas are working very hard to keep up with the number of dolphins washing ashore, and have been working to perform necropsies (animal autopsies) on as many dolphins as possible. During a necropsy, biologists look for signs of external or internal injuries, signs of disease or illness, and take routine tissue samples for laboratory analysis. Virginia has already collected over 100 bottlenose dolphin carcasses this year, which is about 20% more than their average for a whole year.

NOAA is compiling data that is being provided by the stranding networks and comparing it to historical numbers. This information will help NOAA determine if there is a widespread trend or if there are common factors across the affected areas. The last time a well-documented die-off took place was in 1987 when more than 740 bottlenose dolphins died in a range from New York to Florida. It took several years to compile test results and determine that the culprit was a measles-like virus known as morbillivirius. While it is unknown what is causing the present day die-off, biologists are not ruling out biotoxins, bacteria or viruses as a possibility. Charley Potter, a marine mammal biologist with the Smithsonian Institute is assisting the Virginia Aquarium with investigating the dolphin deaths, and is concerned that this event could be similar to the 1987 event, but it is still too early to tell.

Stranding networks play an important role in supporting the NOAA Fisheries Service through an array of unique research and monitoring opportunities to fulfill NOAA’s core mission. The national stranding network is a successful public/private venture for monitoring marine mammal strandings. Marine mammals are important indicator species of the ocean health, so monitoring their health through strandings is important for understanding the health of our oceans and the impacts of human activities in a time of significant development and change. The stranding networks and NOAA will continue to work together to investigate incidents such as this, and more information will be released as it becomes available.

What can you do to help during this event?

  • Report any live marine mammal strandings or mortalities to the local stranding response facility. In Maryland, call the Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944.
  • If you do find a stranded dolphin, wait for directions from the local stranding responder – do not touch the animal or try to return it to the water. Doing so could cause more harm.
  • Make a donation to a local stranding response organization. Events like this require a lot of basic equipment, supplies, and fees for processing tissue samples.

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

Animal Rescue Update: Two Loggerheads Admitted for Hook Injuries

Animal Rescue Update

Two loggerhead turtles were recently admitted into the care of the National Aquarium Animal Rescue after having been hooked by fishing gear.

Portsmouth and Niagra arrived from the Virginia Aquarium yesterday afternoon, and were met with full medical exams and a new pool. Both turtles were brought to the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Center because they had been hooked by fishing gear on a local pier. The fisherman did the best thing for the turtles by calling their local rescue team, who gladly took in the turtles and stabilized them before calling us for a transfer. After quite a ride up to the National Aquarium, Portsmouth and Niagra were ready to go back into the water. They have started a round of antibiotics, which is routine, and will have radiographs taken later this week to check those areas where they were hooked.

Hook injuries like these are not uncommon . Season after season, you will hear marine animal rescue facilities along the coastlines talking about safe viewing of marine animals and helping stranded or injured marine animals in their local areas. As protected species, there are federal laws that protect these animals from human activities such as harassment, poaching, hunting, killing, feeding, and touching within our waterways; however, reporting suspicious incidents, entanglement cases, and sightings or strandings of these animals is not a crime against them…it is actually helping them!

With summer in full swing, and boaters constantly out on the waters, we would like to take this time to talk about sea turtle safety and how YOU can help save them! First, we understand that it is not always easy to spot sea turtles in the open water, as they will only surface for a breath of air. This means that a hint of their carapace (shell) and their head will appear out of the water for a few seconds. Sea turtles are not basking turtles, so you will not find them lounging on rocks or beaches to rest. Spring and summer are often the months where we see an increase in boat strike injuries because of these subtle sightings. Another increase that we see is hook ingestion and entanglement cases that involve fishing gear and marine debris. There are ways to help save these animals, most of which are simple and thoughtful for all marine life!

If you capture a sea turtle while fishing in local waters, immediately contact the appropriate response team and await further instruction. Locally, these teams can be reached at:

Maryland, National Aquarium: 410-373-0083
Delaware, MERR Institute: 302-228-5029
Virginia, Virginia Aquarium: 757-385-7575
NOAA Fisheries Hotline: 1-866-755-6622

While you wait for the response team to arrive, here are a few things to remember:

  • Keep your hands away from the turtle’s mouth and flippers.
  • Use a net or the shell to lift the animal onto land/pier, or into a boat. Do NOT lift the animal via hook or pull on the line. If the turtle is too large, try to guide it to the beach.
  • When you have control of the animal, use blunt scissors/knife to cut the line, leaving at least 2 feet of line.
  • Leave the hook in place, as removing it could cause further damage. NEVER take the hook out on your own and release the animal. The response team wants to make sure that the turtle is safe before releasing it back into the wild.
  • Keep the turtle out of direct sunlight, and cover the shell with a damp towel.

The response team will communicate with you to retrieve the animal for treatment and an exam. We take every precaution to make sure that these animals go back into their natural environment with the best chance possible at survival, and we would like you to join us in this effort by simply educating yourself on the laws for their protection, visiting our website for further insight, and using safe boating practices!

Stay tuned for updates on Portsmouth and Niagra’s stay with the Animal Rescue team!

Blog-Header-JennDittmar

2013 Dolphin Count Results Are In!

Staff from the National Aquarium Animal Rescue program were joined by volunteers today for the annual Maryland Dolphin Count. This year, 113 dolphins were sighted!

national aquarium dolphin count 2013

Volunteers of all ages braved the rain to help record dolphin sightings at four locations along the Eastern Shore of Maryland – three beach locations in Ocean City and at the Assateague State Park Day Use Area.

national aquarium dolphin count 2013

In Ocean City, our team also spotted numerous pelicans and osprey diving for fish!

pelicans ocean city maryland

Annual dolphin counts help marine mammal specialists capture a snapshot look at dolphin populations, reproduction rates and ocean health. Looking at the population numbers over the years can help to determine the health of the coastal ecosystem as well as the abundance of prey.

national aquarium dolphin count 2013

We want to send out a big thank you to all those who joined our team today!

Click here for more information on National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program and how the general public can assist with rescue efforts!

Loggerhead Rooney Undergoes Surgery for a Chronic Abscess

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Over the last several months, our veterinary team has been monitoring and caring for a chronic abscess that Rooney, a loggerhead sea turtle, has had since his arrival last December.

rooney, loggerhead sea turtle

Rooney came to our Animal Rescue team as a cold-stunned turtle, and suffered several cuts and wounds while he was stunned – these usually occur as the turtles are tossed in the surf and against rock jetties/sandy beaches. Most of these wounds healed well, with the exception of one very deep abscess behind his right front flipper.

Our veterinarians managed the abscess with frequent cleaning and antibiotic therapy and even used a unique item to help combat the infection – honey. Honey has bacteriostatic properties, meaning it stops bacteria from reproducing, and can be purchased as a medical treatment in several different forms – including gauze and wound dressings. While honey is used in many species to help heal wounds, Rooney required a little more than what the bees could provide.

After several weeks of cleaning and only minimal improvement, it was decided to enlist the help of Dr. Minihan, a soft tissue and orthopedic surgeon with Chesapeake Veterinary Surgical Specialists. Her training and experience allowed her to remove the abscess surgically in order to help Rooney heal.

rooney abcess removal

On June 27, Rooney was sedated under general anesthesia for a full removal of the pocket of unhealthy tissue. Our veterinary staff, Dr. Minihan, and Rooney did a wonderful job throughout the procedure which lasted 3 hours, and ended with several stitches. While waking up from his surgical adventure, Rooney also received his PIT tag (a microchip identifier like dogs can get just under the skin) and his flipper tags in preparation for a future release later this summer!

We are now monitoring the stitches and wound site to ensure proper healing of the affected area and we are also providing oral antibiotics and medications to prevent pain to Rooney during this time of healing. Rooney is getting plenty of sleep and food during his recovery, and we will continue to keep you updated on his rehabilitation.

Thanks to Veterinary Intern Katie Seeley and Animal Rescue Aide Amber White for contributing content to this post! 

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Animal Rescue Update: Eyegore Has Been Released!

Our last seal patient of the season, Eyegore, was successfully released this morning at Assateague State Park in Berlin, Maryland!

Eyegore was admitted to our Animal Care Center back in mid-April for respiratory and eye infections. He was also suffering from mild alopecia (hair loss). Although both infections cleared, he has permanent corneal scarring of the left eye (which has likely caused him to go partially blind). Aside from his vision problem, Eyegore’s healthy appetite and strong personality made him a great candidate for release!

Join us in wishing Eyegore the best of luck out in the big blue! 


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