• 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.

Live Stranded Minke Whale

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Mandibles of live stranded minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) reveal chronic net entanglement

On May 9, 2015, a live young entangled and stranded minke whale came ashore on the ocean beach of Duck, NC.  Responders from the Outer Banks Marine Mammal Stranding Network removed net which was embedded in flesh at the tips of the mandibles.  The whale was refloated but soon returned to the beach and died.  The cleaned mandibles show bone having grown around the entangling net demonstrating the chronic nature of the entanglement.

stranded minke whale

North Carolina Whales & Whaling Symposium April 9, 2016

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

Mnfluke copy

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.

Fin whale, and “Onion” returns, Nov.16, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Cape Lookout Studies Program, Cetacean Studies, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sighting Report

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Today was an amazing day for the crew of Spyhop. The day started out with 2015’s first sighting of “Onion” here in Beaufort. While out for our regular bottlenose dolphin photo ID survey we encountered him  in the estuary near Phillips Island. He appears to be in good condition, and seems to be in the company of a new companion.

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We continued out to the ocean, as weather conditions were perfect. No other groups of bottlenose dolphins were seen off Shackleford banks. However, several blows from whales were visible in the distance. Heading back into Beaufort inlet we spotted a very unusual sight…A Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) just off of Atlantic Beach! This encounter is highly unusual as Fin whales are rarely sighted south of Hatteras in NC or near the beach in shallow water. While photographing this animal for documentation and possible photo identification we sighted a humpback whale, also very near the beach and a short distance away near the AB circle. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to photograph this animal. However, on our way back to the dock we encountered yet another humpback whale only slightly farther offshore of Ft Macon!

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Fin whale top left and right, Humpback whale below:
humpback whale

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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Young male bottlenose dolphin strands at Emerald Isle

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Marine Mammal Stranding Network

On October 19, 2012, a fresh dead bottlenose dolphin was reported floating near Bogue Sound at Emerald Isle.  NC Maritime Museum volunteers David and Bobbi Brown assisted Dr. Victoria Thayer from the NC Division of Marine Fisheries and NC Maritime Museum Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster in retrieving the carcass which was frozen for later analysis.  The carcass (#KAR030) was used as a valuable dolphin research and training tool for volunteers and students.  A careful exam and subsequent necropsy revealed fresh monofilament line scars from a gill net on all appendages of the otherwise healthy juvenile male bottlenose dolphin. The marine mammal stranding network reminds you to please make use of the fishing line recycle bins located along the coast.retrieving KAR030KAR030 rt pec linesgroup necr KAR030 capt

A young bottlenose dolphin dead with multiple entanglements

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Marine Mammal Stranding Network, monofilament recycling

            On October 7th, 2011, Kat Fourhman of the NC Aquarium at Roanoke Island responded to a stranding of a dead bottlenose dolphin on the shore of Roanoke Sound near Manteo, NC.  Paul Doshkov of Cape Hatteras National Seashore assisted with the investigation.  It was a 175cm (5’ 9”) male.  At that size he would have been around 2 years old, still nursing, growing fast.  Monofilament line from 2 different types of gill nets surrounded the rostrum and left pectoral fin. 

A dolphin named Butterfly

Written by animaljosh. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Marine Mammal Stranding Network

The Story of a  Big Dolphin Named Butterfly

Nan Bowles, 05 September 2012

Butterfly was first photographed by Keith Rittmaster, Natural Science Curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, on the 31st of December 1993.  He was seen in our Beaufort, NC waters along the ocean shore of Shackleford Banks. For the next 19 years we almost always saw Butterfly in the presence of his friend Onion.

615 dead dolphins on Peru beaches; acoustic tests for oil to blame? – World News

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Marine Mammal Stranding Network

615 dolphins have washed up on Peru beaches. More dolphins suspected dead. Surely we can do better. Are you ready for oil drilling off North Carolina? Is this the kind of thing that will help tourism and tourism related jobs? Something to think about.

615 dead dolphins found on Peru beaches; acoustic tests for oil to blame? – World News.

Entangled dolphin calf dies during rescue attempt.

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

UPDATED: See update at bottom of page

Entangled Dolphin Calf Dies During Rescue Attempt

by Keith Rittmaster,
Natural Science Curator
NC Maritime Museum
Jan. 13, 2005

On Tuesday, January 11th. off our NC Maritime Museum docks in Gallants Channel we saw a familiar dolphin named “Yang” (#1185). She has a very distinct dorsal fin and we have had her in our photo-ID catalog since 1992. We know she is a female because we have seen her before with a young calf. In fact, in October ´04 we photographed her with a young calf, one that was probably born around May, ´04. On Tuesday she was also with her young calf but this time her calf appeared to be entangled in fishing line, struggling at the surface for every breath, and unable to extend its body to swim properly. It was just Yang and her calf. No other dolphins were nearby.

We contacted some of our local colleagues (Vicky Thayer at Duke, Aleta Hohn and Gretchen Lovewell at NOAA/NMFS, and others) who came out on a boat with us to have a look and help evaluate the condition of the calf. Since we were observing what appeared to be a life-threatening human-induced injury, we began to pull together a group of local professional colleagues and volunteers to attempt a rescue coordinated and led by Aleta. On the morning of January 13th. 20+ people from 6 local institutions on very short notice in 6 boats set out with the goal of trying to safely locate, capture, disentangle, and release the calf. Within an hour of leaving the dock in light rain, we found (thanks to Janet Frye on her boat “Daydream”) Yang and her calf. The tide was high but they were near a sandbar so Blake Price, Dave Skinner, and Kevin Brown of the NC Dept. of Marine Fisheries deployed a large-mesh seine net and captured Yang and her calf on the first attempt. While restraining the 2 dolphins next to each other, we soon realized that the calf was horribly injured as a result of entanglement in a jumble of monofilament fishing line stretching from his mouth to his tail. Craig Harms, the attendant veterinarian from NCSU/CMAST, was considering euthanasia when the baby died in our arms in front of his mother, “Yang”. We released the mother.

The necropsy revealed that the fishing line had cut both sides of the mouth down into the bones (mandibles) and cut deeply near the tail almost to the spine. The outcome, although disappointing because we were unable to save the calf, left us with the rewarding feeling that we did the best we could have and forged relationships that are likely to be helpful in the future. It will be interesting to see if/when Yang joins up with other dolphins and gives birth again. If we had gotten to the baby sooner perhaps we could have saved him. We’re all feeling pretty deflated right now. We hope that those who read this will help educate others about the negative impacts of litter, particularly of discarded monofilament fishing line, on marine wildlife. Thanks for everyone’s support and help, especially the following people who assisted with the preparation and rescue attempt:

Aleta Hohn David Brown Nate Bacheler
Allen Brooks Emma Jugovich Patti Haase
Annie Gorgone Gretchen Lovewell Paul Rudershausen
April Goodman Janet Frye Rachel LoPiccolo
Ari Friedlander John Russell Tom Ninke
Blake Price Kevin Brown Vicky Thayer
Craig Harms Keith Rittmaster
Dave Skinner Nan Bowles

For more information please visit capelookoutstudies.org or e-mail krittmaster@ec.rr.com.

Click photo for large uncompressed version of photo.

Yang with Calf

Yang with entangled Calf

Entangled Calf

Entangled Calf

Yang’s (#1185) Sighting History
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
29-96,E 15-96,E 23-02,OC 11-02,OC 27-95,E 12-97,E 9-97,E 25-94,E
6-99,E 22-96,OC 7-98,E 19-97,OC
22-04,OC 25-96,OC 11-99,OC 19-98,E
8-02,OC 9-03,OC 19-99,E
19-02,E 25-04,E 14-02,OC
22-02,OC
25-02,OC
The entries under the month column headings indicate the day and year for which we have photos of “Yang” (ie., 29-96 under January means January 29, 1996), and general location (E=estuary, OC=ocean).

UPDATE: We’ve decided to name Yang’s calf “Yaholo” which is Seminole for “One who yells”. We’ve added a slide show from the pictures of Yang and Yaholo to the fishing line (monofilament) recycling project page. That page is dedicated to Yaholo – we hope that he will continue to “yell” through this page so that everyone learns how monofilament recycling can help protect wild dolphins.

Stranded Sperm Whale on Cape Lookout Spit

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Cetacean Studies, Marine Mammal Stranding Network

sperm whalesperm whaleOn or before January 30, 2004 a 33½ foot male sperm whale washed ashore dead on the west (ocean) beach of Power Squadron Spit near Cape Lookout. The whale was closely examined by NOAA scientists and NC State veterinarians and others to try and determine cause of death but none was found.

 

sperm whalePortions of the whale will be saved for research and education.

 

 

 

  • sperm whaleAdult sperm whales range in length from 50-40 feet, males being longer then females. The size of the stranded whale, 33½ feet, may indicate this whale was a young male just past the age of being weaned.

 

 

  • sperm whale

    tooth

    Sperm whales have long life spans, some living as long as 70 years.

  • The blowhole on a sperm whale is located on the left side toward the very front of the head.
  • Teeth occur only on the lower jaw of a sperm whale. Some teeth have been measured at eight inches in length.
  • Sperm whales are deep divers of the ocean. A single dive might last from 30 minutes to an hour in length.
  • Sperm whales inhabit both the northern and southern hemispheres. These whales migrate north and south with the seasons within their respective regions.
  • sperm whale

    atlas

    Squids of various sizes are the primary food of these large whales; the largest of all the known toothed whales.

  • Parts of the sperm whale were once used by humans, making this whale one of the most frequently hunted whales during the peak of the whaling industry. Spermaceti, an oil located within the large head, was used for heating and lighting purposes. Some Scientists suggest that the spermaceti is used by these whales as part of their sound system. Ambergris, a waxy, gray substance formed in the intestines wherever a squid beak, the one hard indigestible part of the squid, occurs. Ambergris was used in the production of expensive perfume.
  • As of 31 December 1994, sperm whales were listed as endangered and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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sperm whale

spermaceti

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