Six dolphins have been found dead in a remote marsh in Alabama after the small pod lost its way in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Sally, according to reports.
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Victims of a “historic mass stranding,” the Atlantic spotted dolphins were trapped alive in the marsh on Dauphin Island for several days before succumbing to the elements, according to officials with the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
A paddle boarder made the grim discovery last Friday.
“This is the first mass stranding of its kind in the state of Alabama,” according to a news release.
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Sally, a slow-moving storm, came ashore Sept. 16 near Gulf Shores and deluged the region, leading to record flooding in Alabama and Florida, according to the National Weather Service.
“The animals likely came into the Mississippi Sound during Hurricane Sally, after becoming disoriented in the Gulf,” Mackenzie Russell, ALMMSN stranding coordinator, said in the release. “We often see an increase in offshore species of dolphins and whales stranding after large storm events. Unfortunately, these dolphins stranded in a remote marsh location that delayed their discovery and reporting to the stranding network.”
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Necropsies were performed on the mammals the day after their discovery at Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Marine Mammal Research Center, according to reports.
“The major finding during examination was nearly empty stomachs, indicating the animals had not eaten in some time,” said Dr. Jennifer Bloodgood, a veterinarian with the network. “Unfortunately, decomposition of the tissues limits our ability to interpret findings, which happens often with deceased animals in the Alabama heat, and highlights the importance of rapid reporting and response.”
Atlantic spotted dolphins live in waters along the continental shelf and are also found in “deep, oceanic habitats,” according to The News & Observer in Raleigh. It’s rare for the species to strand on the Alabama coast, with the last documented occurrence in January 2018.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls marine stranding “relatively common in many areas,” and thousands of incidents are reported every year. The gentle mammals may also strand due to injuries, illnesses, entanglement in fishing gear or starvation.
Dolphins, whales and porpoises are “considered stranded” when they are found dead on the land or floating in the water or when they are found alive on the land but unable to return to the water, according to NOAA. If the animal is alive, it will usually need medical attention or help from a professional to get back in the water.
In Australia, rescuers confirmed they have saved 108 long-finned pilot whales involved in the largest mass stranding on Tasmania’s west coast this week, according to reports.
Rescuers believe there are no more live whales in the harbor, after an estimated 470 whales became stranded.
Authorities have revised the number of dead whales down to 350.
Information provided by The Associated Press and Tribune News Service was used to supplement this report.
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