On Tuesday morning, Jorge Rios was teaching junior lifeguarding, a program affiliated with the Bridgehampton Tennis and Surf Club, when he noticed a dead dolphin in the water. "We were down on the beach talking about the water," Mr. Rios said. "I saw one of its fins sticking out" from a sandbar near shore.
Mr. Rios and a coworker pulled the dolphin to the beach, thinking it should not be allowed to wash back out."I thought it was kind of strange. It's six years that I've been lifeguarding and I've never seen a dolphin wash up dead before."
Mr. Rios initially called the town, which directed him to the hotline for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. The call was made at about 10 p.m., and the foundation staff arrived approximately two hours later, explaining that they had been leaving for Quogue to retrieve the carcass of a sea turtle at the time of the call.
Kimberly Durham, rescue program director of the Riverhead Foundation, reported this week that the dolphin was male adult, and a short-beaked common dolphin. It was 7 feet long and weighed 150 pounds, which she said was underweight for the species, which is usual in East End waters. The carcass is being frozen until a necropsy next week.
"We're suspecting we're going to find a reason why the animal wasn't eating because it was very skinny," Ms. Durham said. An initial indication of the cause of death was prompted by what she called "dolphin pox" on its skin. "There was no indication of a boat strike or cuts," she said.
The Bridgehampton call was not the first about the dolphin. A day earlier, a woman called and sent pictures to the Riverhead Foundation of an unidentified man on the previous day getting a dolphin back into the water from Coopers Beach in Southampton. "The gentleman thought it was alive, and he pushed it back out," Ms. Durham said, adding that she is outraged by such attempts. For persons without experience to try to assist an animal on their own is counterproductive and dangerous, she said, adding that the foundation often invovles lifeguards and marine patrol personnel in its efforts.
"There's a reason why that single dolphin is hanging out close to swimmers; it's not because they want to play with you," Ms. Durham said. She added that the man could have put himself "in a potentially hazardous situation".
Ms. Durham reported that it work is less well-known in western Suffolk and Nassau County, and that spreading word of the hotline was one of its important objectives. The hotline number is 631-369-9829.
Last year, unusual mortality among bottle-nosed dolphins was recorded on the East Coast. "Live and dead response calls for bottle-nosed dolphins last summer was six times more than normal."
The foundation's headquarters are at the Long Island Aquarium, where it offers free lectures on marine animals.