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Article by IMMS - December, 2008
Results of the 2008 Stranding Season

The IMMS stranding response team responded to a total of 18 strandings (16 cetaceans and 2 sea turtles) over a period from March through October 2008.  Our season started off slowly, but quickly sped up towards late March/early April.  The majority of the strandings were in Harrison County, but we did have three in Hancock County and two in Jackson County.  Surprisingly, we had only one barrier island stranding this season, reported on October 25, 2008.  Below are the results of the 2008 stranding season, in order of occurrence.

Date
Species
Age Classification
Sex
Location
3/15/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Calf
Male
Harrison County
3/25/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Calf
Male
Hancock County
3/27/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Calf
Unknown
Harrison County
3/28/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Subadult
Female
Harrison County
3/28/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Adult
Female
Harrison County
4/5/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Calf
Unknown
Harrison County
4/19/2008
Pygmy Killer Whale
Subadult
Male
Jackson County
4/19/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Calf
Male
Hancock County
5/12/2008
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle
Juvenile
Female
Harrison County
6/19/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Adult
Female
Harrison County
7/3/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Subadult
Unknown
Jackson County
7/3/2008
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle
Adult
Female
Harrison County
7/21/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Subadult
Male
Harrison County
8/13/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Adult
Female
Harrison County
8/29/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Unknown
Unknown
Harrison County
9/23/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Adult
Male
Harrison County
9/29/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Subadult
Male
Hancock County
10/26/2008
Bottlenose Dolphin
Adult
Female
Harrison County


We performed limited necropsies and collected appropriate samples from each stranding, based on the level of decomposition of each animal.  The Kemp’s Ridley was a live stranding that was brought to IMMS for rehabilitation.  Despite our best efforts, she died on 5/14/08. 

Stranding season along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is typically most active in the months of March and April.  The majority of stranding calls we receive are for deceased bottlenose dolphins that are found on mainland and barrier island beaches.  This stranding season presented us with two very unique opportunities for the IMMS staff – a live sea turtle stranding and the chance to study a Pygmy Killer Whale. 

Although the Pigmy Killer Whale is distributed pantropically in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, it is an animal rarely seen along the Gulf Coast.  It is an oceanic species and does not normally enter the shallow water inshore.  The subadult male was found on a small beach in Pascagoula at the Chevron Refinery.  The animal appeared to have been dead less than 24 hours, so we were able to perform a thorough necropsy and collect numerous samples for genetics, histopathology and toxicological studies. 

The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was observed in Gulfport Harbor showing signs of difficulty swimming.  The animal was rescued by the Department of Marine Resources and brought to the IMMS facility for rehabilitation.  Our veterinarian, Dr. Chevis, examined the animal and prescribed a regimen of antibiotics upon its arrival.  The sea turtle, later identified as a female, appeared stable on 5/13/08, but its condition declined rapidly in the early morning of 5/14/08.  She died at approximately 3pm.  Preliminary necropsy results showed abnormalities within the heart and possible impaction in the intestines.  Samples were collected for more in-depth lab analysis.

We would like to say a big thank you to all of our volunteers for their interest, dedication and hard work this stranding season.  Between walking the beaches, attending stranding workshops, responding to stranding calls and assisting with necropsies, you guys were a tremendous help!

By IMMS

 

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