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Marine Animal Rescue and Response: Tales From the Field

Hi! My name is Sarah and I am the coordinator for WDC’s newest program - Marine Animal Rescue and Response (MARR)!

I want to thank everyone who has sent encouraging messages, made generous donations, and supported us as get this program up and running during this first year of helping stranded seals, whales, and dolphins! It has been a labor of love to start this program from scratch and I am so appreciative of your support. I am once again asking for your help to make important updates and upgrades to our program.

We have had several interesting cases in our first nine months, but I wanted to share one that has stuck with me. We had just started the program when a concerned citizen called our hotline to report a live dolphin who was struggling in the surf at Duxbury Beach. After reviewing photos and videos of this dolphin sent by the caller, we decided to dispatch two members of our MARR team to investigate. Unfortunately, after a thorough search made difficult by high winds and large waves, we could not relocate the dolphin.

Asmutis-Silvia gathers data on a deceased common dolphin in Duxbury. (WDC)

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The next day, we received another call to our hotline - this time a report of a deceased dolphin on Duxbury Beach. We dispatched a member of our MARR team who found a recently deceased short-beaked common dolphin, likely the dolphin from the day before. 

Our team member performed what we call a ‘Level A examination’. During this exam, I collected data on the animal to look for clues about why they may have died. For this case, I took measurements (this dolphin was 217 cm long), identified it as male or female (this was a male), estimated age class (he was an adult), and took a wide variety of photos.

By doing these examinations as part of WDC’s MARR program, we can learn about whales, dolphins, and seals who are otherwise very difficult to study. We submit all of the data we collect to a national database where scientists from all over can learn more about these species and decide how to best protect them.

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Thanks to the support of the WDC community, we had the basic resources we needed to perform the Level A exam, including gloves, tape measures, a camera, proper clothing, and our response vehicle to get out on the beach.

We are looking to take the Marine Animal Rescue and Response program to the next level by equipping our team to respond to live stranded marine mammals, like that common dolphin who was struggling in the surf.

To provide the best supportive care for seals, whales, and dolphins in distress, we need to equip our team with dry suits, life jackets, and safety ropes. Our most vital need is a blood analyzer, which costs $7,000! Similar to how blood tests give your doctor more information about your health, a blood analyzer is a crucial tool that will help us figure out what kind of care each animal needs.

Thanks to a small group of anonymous donors, any donation you make will be matched up to $10,000! Donations of ANY size will help us reach our goal of $20,000 towards our Marine Animal Rescue & Response program!

With gratitude,

Sarah McCormack, WDC Stranding Coordinator

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