• 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.

UPDATES – Humpback Whale – Monofilament Recycling

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Humpback whale

On January 16, 2010 this juvenile humpback whale was seen at Cape Lookout. Keith sent Ryan’s photo to Jooke Robbins with the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA and she immediately matched it as a whale they had IDed in the Gulf of Maine.

Monofilament We weighted and sent off 38 pounds of monofilament for recycling. We received a “Fish-Hab” (pictured above) from Berkley Conservation Institute which is made from recycled monofilament.That is Keith holding it and next to him is one of our recycle bins.

Berkley Conservation Institute was founded to respect the outdoors and foster a passion for fishing. The ‘Fish Hab’ is made for fresh water and research has shown that in many places the fish populations increased four times with its use.

Bottlenose Dolphin VGT219 Necropsy Part of Training

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Stranded dolphin VGT219 was necropsied as part of a one day stranding training offered at CMAST in Beaufort, NC for volunteers by Vicky Thayer, Craig Harms and Keith Rittmaster. A vast amount of information was presented about individual and mass strandings with both live and dead animals.
Then in the afternoon, after delicious pizza, VGT219 was necropsied.
This older female Bottlenose dolphin had a stingray spine lodged in her right lung. It had been there for a while. Bone and soft tissue damage from the spine’s migration was evident.
She had a double horned horned uterus. She had given birth to calves, although I don’t know how many. Her health seemed to be compromised in several different ways, but more will be known after lab results. The picture below shows how we measured the length of the intestines – we laid them out in equal length lines and counted the number of lines multiplied by the line length. That is a lot of intestine.

All organs were weighted and measured. I still haven’t been able to remove the olfactory reminder from my camera. Her bones were buried in anticipation of possibly becoming a skeletal display.

‘Cold Stunned’ Sea Turtles from Florida Arrive for Necropsies

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Dolphin VG 219 had to be moved from the NOAA to NCSU CMAST (North Carolina State University Center for Marine and Science Technology) to make room for 400-500 dead sea turtles that were shipped here from Florida for necropsies.
Approximately 4,000 sea turtles died off the Florida coast over the last month, many of which were likely ‘cold stunned’. Turtles become cold stunned at temperatures less than 50 F, smaller turtles reacting first. They will either float on the surface, unable to move, or strand. The necropsies are important to determine whether there were other contributing factors in the deaths. Scientists here are working on the necropsies and completed 40 yesterday. These sea turtles are mostly Green Turtles (endangered) with some Loggerheads(threatened), a few Ridleys(endangered) and possibly a few Hawksbills(endangered).
Of the turtles that were stunned but still alive, 80% were released. These turtles were taken to a facility nearby and placed in warm salt water to bring their bodies back to temperature. They were then weighed, tagged and released as soon as possible. The releases had to be in water above 50F. It is believed that there are no long term affects from ‘cold stunning’. Each turtle was tagged with a metal tag placed on a front flipper.The tagging will be helpful in further research.
Here is a link to good sea turtle info. http://www.seaturtle.org/
This site has photos of the entire process of rescue, warming, tagging and release.
ht tp://www.myfoxtampabay.com/generic/photos/sea-turtles-release-012110

Program Updates

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

We just sent off 41.8 pounds of monofilament for recycling from our receptacles around the coast. Yes!!
We are looking for volunteers to set up and maintain monofilament recycling receptacles in Dare and Currituck counties.
We were on the water 6 days and had 19 sighting sessions with a total of 139
individual dolphin fins photographed. We’re working on how many are matches now.
Keith took the annual re-training with the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network.
At Bonehenge, we continue to degrease the skull in the jacuzzi but have moved the jacuzzi outside due to mold problems. Alternating high and low temperatures seems to be effective at this stage. We are still looking for engineering advice regarding pipe diameter for the thoracic section.

Marine Mammal Strandings – Central North Carolina

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

There were 4 known strandings in December 2009 in central NC.
Dec. 10 – A pregnant Grampus whale on N. Core Banks

This is the fetus found inside the Grampus whale.

Dec. 15 – Male bottlenose dolphin on Bear Island
Dec. 18(ish) – Kogia on N. Core Banks
Dec. 22 – Large female bottlenose on Ocracoke (Outer Banks). She was an old dolphin with teeth almost worn down to the gum. She traveled by truck and ferry from Ocracooke to Beaufort. She was frozen for a necropsy workshop Vicky Thayer will offer on January 30.
VGT 219 is her ID number.

Carrying to the freezer and in the freezer.
Vicky Thayer is currently running the Central North Carolina Stranding Network full time. We will have ongoing updates on strandings.

Octopus Visitor — Shy and Smart

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

This Octopus has been under Keith’s dock for the last 3 days. That means (let’s call her she) she has come into and up the Newport River almost to Core Creek.They are often seen on the coast here but it may be pretty unusual for them to be this far inland.
She is an octopus vulgaris or Common Octopus. She is part of a group of Mollusks called Cephalapods who are among the most evolved and intelligent invertebrates. Through giving them complex tasks to solve we have learned that they have both long and short term memories and learn quickly. Some people who work with them in captivity think they may even like to play tricks on us. Their eyes are similar to ours, they have a cornea, lens and retina. Some octopus see color but not the Octopus vulgaris.
For protection they can release a purple-black ink when they feel threatened for camouflage and to temporarily destroy the predator’s sense of smell. They are short-lived. The males generally die shortly after mating and the females usually die after they have protected their eggs for about a month during which their appetite is reduced. An article in Science News describes a gland, the optic gland, that seems to dictate when they die. Their mouth is like a parrot’s beak and is found where the legs come together. It is the only rigid part of their body. One of their fascinating characteristics is their ability to change the texture and color of their mantle.