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    We've learned a lot with your help. But there's still so much we need to know to protect our wild dolphin neighbors.

    Give to dolphin research at the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Sea Turtel sick and injured from fishing line

    You can stop this.

    Protecting marine wildlife is within your reach.

    When you give to put monofilament recycling bins within reach of conscientious boaters and anglers.

  • Harbor seal in need

    Save lives, reduce suffering, learn more.

    It's a win, win, win – when you support our Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

    Please give generously to the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Cetacean Studies

    Inspire curiosity.

    What does it take to get students interested in science and conservation? Your help.

    Please give generously to support Cetacean Studies and the Bonehenge rearticulation project.

Author Archive

Neonate Photos From January 31st

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Photo by Keith Rittmaster
The neonate with his/her presumed mom and, below, alone. You can see how he/she is darker and still has the fetal folds. Like us, they don’t fit in the womb without curling up and the light fold lines are from that bending. The lines gradually disappear. When born their dorsal fin is also floppy in order to get through the birth canal more easily. If you look carefully at the top picture, you will see another dolphin directly underneath the infant. Interesting image.
Photo by Keith Rittmaster

In the picture below, which I think is very cute, you can see how short the newborn’s rostrum is. You can also see the eye beyond the line of the mouth. I love the water that looks like it is coming off the dorsal fin and the little bit of moisture rising above his/her blowhole. Notice also that the upper and lower jaw are the same length, whereas an adult dolphin has a pronounced under bite. Quite possibly the even jaw line facilitates nursing.

Photo by Keith Rittmaster

Photo by Keith Rittmaster
These two photos show the neonate traveling between two adult dolphins and so close to the adult that is probably mom.This will be a long relationship with an extended period of nursing and lots of learning. If the neonate is a female, she might well return to this same group of females to raise her own young. 

Photo by Keith Rittmaster

Great Last Day of 2010

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

We surveyed the estuary and the coastal ocean off Shackleford Banks today for Photo ID and what a last trip of the year. We recorded a total of 147 dolphins (that’s alot).This included 5 calves; 2 ‘young of the year’ and most exciting was a neonate. He/she was dark with very clear folds and was very bouncy. Two of the young calves had visible folds also. The water was clear and we could actually see the neonate nursing. Wow!! We are not yet sure if we have a video of that, but I will definitely post some pictures next week.
Happy New Year.

Dolphin Photo ID and Marine Mammal Strandings for November 2010

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

November updates from Cape Lookout Studies Program.

Dolphin Photo ID

We were out on the water doing dolphin photo ID 6 days in November. We had 9 distinct sightings with 108 identified dolphins. The dolphins were often in Gallants Channel or the Morehead Port turning basin.

Marine Mammal Strandings   
Vicky Thayer, head of North Carolina Mid-Coast Marine Mammal Strandings, reports that there were a total of 5 strandings:  One spotted dolphin on Bird Shoal and 4 bottlenose dolphins – 2 were on South Core, 1 on Bear Island, and a juvenile male, pictured, found dead  2 miles offshore.  The one from Bear Island was very fresh and was saved in the NOAA freezer to use for the upcoming stranding volunteer workshop. 
 Also, Vicky told us “someone called distressed because an “otter” was on a channel marker in the Cape Fear River.  From the photo and description she sent me, it appears to be a healthy, alert harbor seal with normal posture and behavior. It looks a whole lot like California to me where sea lions hang out on buoys”.

October Bottlenose Dolphin Photo-ID

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID

 The migratory pulse has arrived, along with loads of Xenobalanus barnacles on fins. As in previous Octobers, we saw lots of airborne dolphins. Monthly sighting statistics for NOAA Fisheries protected species research permit No. 779-1633-00 were:
We were on the water 6 days (in October) with 10 distinct sightings.This yielded a total of 195 identifiable dolphins.

Leaping Dolphins – Core Creek – Oct. 20, 2010

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Core Creek-Oct 20, 2010-Photo by Keith Rittmaster
Photo by Keith Rittmaster

On Wednesday Oct. 20, we did a rather quick photo

Photo by Keith Rittmaster
Photo by Keith Rittmaster

ID trip up the Newport River to Core Creek – not far from our office. Keith and Nan who have been doing this for decades say that October is the month when they see the absolute most air-borne leaping dolphins. My favorite photo is the one with the dolphin’s rostrum just hitting the water. Newport River/Core Creek is an estuarine River that is not very developed in this particular part (south of the bridge and north of Deerfield). There is large area of preserved land behind the dolphins

Core Creek -10/20/10.  Photo by Keith Rittmaster         

Humpback Whale Skeleton Settled Into New Home

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Whale Bones, Cape Lookout

VIP Trailer space for whale bones, Gallants Channel

Nan is putting flipper bones together just to see their size (about 12 feet)

With only 2 weeks notice, we were ready and waiting for the 37 foot humpback whale skeleton that arrived Friday October 10. Keith had miraculously cleared space for it in the ‘VIP Trailer’, which is our work and storage trailer across from our offices. Jeremy Winn and Becky Woodward drove the skeleton from Maine. The bones were individually wrapped and packed with padding filling their van and the boat they towed. These bones are heavier than the sperm whale bones we are used to working with, and feel and smell different. We re-labeled each bone as the old labels were fading.

Whale Bones, Cape Lookout

Vicky and Becky are putting the vertebrae in order

Ribs on their way into VIP Trailer

Chain of Custody form required for Marine Mammals










And, another adventure whose outcome is unknown, begins. The skeleton will be re-articulated and hung – but all the details of who and where are on hold for now.

The participants in this project were: Vicky Thayer; Dick Barmore; Keith Rittmaster; Nan Bowles; Bruce and Pudge McCutchen; Brooks; Becky Woodward and Jeremy Winn.

Bones settled into new home in the VIP Trailer

Becky and Keith completing
Chain of Custody Forms

Humpback Whale Skeleton Arrives

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Tomorrow we will receive the skeleton of ‘Pittfall’, a 37 foot female humpback whale who beached at Duxbury, MA 2001.She was 3 years old and would have weighted 25 tons.She was a whale known to the researchers in that area. She died from a ship strike – her rostrum was sheared off at the cranium and other bones were also broken.

We have made space and are excited to welcome her. She is being driven down from Maine.The bones are clean, organized and well prepared. At this point we don’t know if we are just storing them for 6 months or if we will articulate the skeleton ourselves (after we finish the sperm whale skeleton).Tomorrow we should know more and I will add an update. 

Cape Lookout Updates

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

No damage from Hurricane Earl.

of our cumulative totals.
Bottlenose Dolphin Photo ID  ~  In the summer we usually see dolphins, especially moms and calves, in the Newport River but this summer we have seen very few dolphins there. We don’t know why.We were out doing photo ID 6 days with 2 sightings total. We identified 16 dolphins. Nan went to Manteo,NC to collaborate and identify more of the dolphins that spend time in both our areas. She saw some of the dolphins that spend winters here.

Our Dolphin License Plate Sales have gone up slightly from the last quarter but are down from 2005 – 2006.

We received donations from Kim Merrels and Sea Stewards.
Marine Mammal Strandings  ~  On August 2nd, a freshly dead emaciated lactating dolphin was brought in from the Neuse River. We knew her as “Roto 8” NCMM #3567. She had a stingray spine in her abdominal cavity. but it was not likely the proximate cause of death. She was part of the April, 2006 Beaufort, NC captures.
Keith is currently part of a film crew here in Beaufort, NC. Maybe more later, or it may have to stay a secret.

Hurricane Earl

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Boats are out of the water and moved back from the waters edge. Notebooks of data  are covered with plastic. Miscellaneous debris that could become missiles have been stashed. Hurricanes are changeable and we don’t think we’ll get a direct hit but …….
We are not on the mandatory evacuation list and we are staying. We are not going out to do photo ID for the next few days though.