ORLEANS, Mass. (WPRI) — Cape Cod isn’t just a hot spot for vacationers, it’s also a stretch of coastline that sees countless dolphin strandings.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) estimates that, in the last 10 years, 25% of all live dolphin strandings in the United States happened in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Brian Sharp, director of marine mammal rescue and research at IFAW, said they respond to about 260 cases per year on Cape Cod.
“We tend to have smaller animals such as common dolphins, harbor porpoises,” Sharp said. “We do occasionally get pilot whales, but it happens more frequently here and so that’s what kind of differentiates us from others.”
The team uses a specially-made vehicle to rescue dolphins, which Sharp described as a “dolphin ambulance.”
The IFAW is now opening a new dolphin rescue and research center in Orleans, to help get more stranded dolphins back into the wild.
If there’s a case where a dolphin isn’t healthy enough to be released right away, the center will be able to give rescuers more time with the animal.
“Our vets can really figure out what is going on and provide more treatments over the course of about four days, all in an effort to increase the animals surviving after they’ve been released,” Sharp explained.
The center will also be used as a teaching hospital, showing people how to rescue dolphins in places like Rhode Island and beyond.
“Part of the reason for creating this hospital is because of the frequency here,” Sharp said. “We can provide people with that experience that they might not get if they don’t see strandings regularly. They can come here, get that experience, so that when it does happen in their location, they can hit the ground running.”
When dolphins are released, IFAW’s Cape Cod team puts a temporary satellite tracker on the animal. They will continue using the technology at the center to see what treatments are effective.
“We’ll be able to see what is working, we’ll be able to measure success and figure out how better to help these animals,” he said.