Delaware Public Media

Dead dolphin washes up at Pickering Beach

Aug 6, 2017

A dead dolphin washed ashore at Pickering Beach in Dover this weekend.

The dolphin is the ninth to wash ashore this year.

Suzanne Thurman, the executive director at the MERR Institute, said the dolphin's size, teeth and head structure are signs it could be an adult atlantic bottlenose dolphin, but the carcass was too deteriorated to confirm the the species' identity or gender.

 

"We can see that it has been scavenged most likely by a combination of sharks, birds and foxes and we can see some fox tracks in the sand. There’s some gnawing on a portion of the tale — indicative of typical scavenging in this area," Thurman said.

 

Suzanne Thurman measures the body of a dead dolphin at Pickering Beach.
Credit Katie Peikes / Delaware Public Media

Thurman said it also appeared to have been hit by a boat propeller, but the edges of the wounds are too degraded to determine that.

 

From 2013 to 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration investigated a die-off in the bottlenose dolphin population. They determined the cause was a virus.

 

MERR saw 246 dolphins during their annual count in July. They’ve also seen nine strandings this year, including six confirmed bottlenose and three probable. Thurman previously told Delaware Public Media that this could indicate there are not many bottlenose dolphins out there because they may not have bounced back fully from a 2013 virus.

"It's always really tragic [to see a dead bottlenose], it's really disappointing, and since so few of these dolphins die of natural causes that we actually respond to — over 90 percent of them show some kind of human impact or human interaction," Thurman said.