• They have a lot more to teach us.

    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.

North Carolina Whales & Whaling Symposium April 9, 2016

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies, Conservation, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, monofilament recycling

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This day-long event will include several presentations focusing on whales and historic hunting practices. Participants will learn about species of whales that can be found in our coastal waters, how some of these whales were hunted from the shore and research involved with stranded animals. The program includes: 10 a.m. Whales of North Carolina (Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster) 11 a.m. Native American Whaling and Porpoise Hunting (Education Curator John Hairr) 1 p.m. The History of Whaling in North Carolina (Associate Curator Benjamin Wunderly) 2 p.m. Legendary Cetaceans (Historic Interpreter Christine Brin) 3 p.m. NC Marine Mammal Stranding Response (Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator Dr. Vicky Thayer) No advance registration. Walk-ins welcome. . North Carolina Maritime Museum, 315 Front Street, Beaufort. www.ncmaritimemuseums.com.

Humpback Whale, Cape Lookout, NC, Nov 5, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Conservation, Sighting Report, Uncategorized

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The changing seasons bring new visitors to our waters here on the North Carolina Crystal Coast…

This time of year we anticipate sightings of our “winter” atlantic bottlenose dolphins arriving for their annual stay. Seldom do we encounter other species near shore, so the recent sighting of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) was an unusual treat.

In the western North Atlantic ocean, humpback whales feed during spring, summer, and fall in a range that encompasses from western Greenland south to the mid Atlantic region of the eastern coast of the United States. Their preferred diet consists mainly of krill and small schooling fish species.

In winter, whales from the North West Atlantic migrate to subtropical/tropical waters to mate and calve. Not all whales migrate south every winter however, and significant numbers of animals are found in mid- and high-latitude regions at this time.

Similar to all baleen whales, adult humpback whale females are larger than adult males, reaching lengths of up to 60 feet (18 m). Their body coloration is primarily dark grey, but individuals have a variable amount of white on their pectoral fins and belly. This variation is so distinct that the pigmentation pattern on the undersides of their “flukes” is used to identify individual whales, similar to a human fingerprint. Other markings on the body and fins are useful for identification as well. One of the most distinguishing characteristics for this species is the “humped” dorsal fin for which the species is named.

Once hunted heavily to near extinction levels, populations of humpback whales are increasing and in recovery. The species is a true marine mammal conservation success story.

During our rather lengthy encounter with this animal we were fortunate to witness and record multiple events of “lunge feeding” on large schools of menhaden (another heavily exploited species that is showing signs of a population increase due to a ban on large scale targeted harvesting).

Through some of the photographs taken by the crew of “Spyhop” we have successfully matched this animal to other recent local sightings of north carolina whales, and hope to use them for further whale identification studies.

If you happen to sight a whale, please enjoy the experience in a cautious manner and at a safe distance (see NOAA guidelines). These animals are large, and though peaceful, direct encounters with boats can be dangerous for both humans and whales.

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Dolphin Epimelitic Behavior, Nov. 1, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Conservation, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sighting Report, Uncategorized

On Sunday, Nov. 1st, Katrina Smith reported a floating dead north carolina dolphin in the Newport River near the ICW at the Morehead Beaufort Yacht Club. Upon arrival, Vicky Thayer (NCDMF and NCSU CMAST) and Keith Rittmaster (NCMM) of the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network noticed it was being supported and moved by another dolphin, a behavior termed “epimeletic”. After approximately 90 minutes of taking photos and video, and seeking help, they (with volunteer Nelson Owens) brought the dead dolphin carcass onto Lee Sykes’ TowBoat US boat near the Morehead/Beaufort high-rise bridge 5 kilometers from where it was initially sighted. After a brief examine, they put it in the CMAST freezer for future necropsy. The most interesting aspect about this case so far is that the dead dolphin, the one being supported and pushed, was a non-lactating adult female. This is unusual because such epimeletic behavior has often been directed towards dead calves, but not towards an adult dolphin as far as we know.

Both bottlenose dolphins are in the nc maritime museum dorsal fin photo-ID catalog, although neither has been seen often. An upcoming necropsy as part of our ongoing dolphin research will yield more information about the dead dolphin, and hopefully future sightings of the “pusher” will teach us more about that dolphin as well.TBUS-VT-NO-Tt-web-credit

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Toothy visitor!

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Conservation

Looks like we have a large non-cetacean visitor to the area! A carcharodon carcharius (or Great White Shark) with a tracking device sent a ping alerting her location to scientists today. She was inside the Ocracoke Inlet. The shark, named Mary Lee, has also been cruising the Crystal Coast lately, including appearances just off of Cape Lookout. OCEARCH researchers are tracking her at their Shark-Tracking website.

Howdy, Neighbor! “Mary Lee,” now swimming off the NC coast.

Mary Lee was tagged off of Cape Cod on 9/17/12 and has travelled as far south as Jacksonville, Florida. Be sure and visit OCEARCH.org to track her progress and discover more about Mary Lee and the important work being done by researchers and scientists working with the OCEARCH team.

Good luck, Mary Lee, and happy hunting (for fish).