• 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.


Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

We do a lot with bones here. The biggest project is the sperm whale skeleton re-articulation –http://www.bonehenge.org/
But, I am particularly moved by the beauty of many types of bones.From time to time I will post some pictures of
various bones. Still deciding if it would be more fun for you to guess whose they were or tell you….hmmmm….
With bone pictures, please don’t copy them – email us and we can get a copy to you. http://www.spyhoplog@gmail.com/


photos by Brooks

And just a few more,

Fox Kits

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

On the Gallants Channel property in Beaufort, NC. near our office and the water are fox dens. Last year they were dug in the bottom of a 3-4 foot rise in the sand, well disguised. This year they are much more right out in the middle of an open area. No idea why. Keith swept the sand smooth in front of the den to confirm that they were currently in use. Fresh footprints appeared. He took some pictures – these are from last year but the kits look pretty much the same this year. The way Keith took the pictures was neat. Early one morning -they are more active dawn and dusk-he set up a digital camera on a tripod set to take a frame every 2 seconds. He went to the office and returned in 2 hours and found these pictures.

On this first picture you can see one of the den entrances
behind the kit. He or she is looking at the camera – something new in his familiar environment.

photos by Keith Rittmaster

Dolphin Photo-ID Update

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

June 2009 Dolphin Photo-ID Statistics
~8 days on the water
~7 days of sightings
~55 dolphins counted and photographed

We don’t know yet how many of the dolphins are ones we know. That process takes time in that the best pictures have to be selected; then the fin photo cropped and printed; then compared with every picture we have of dolphin fins by hand and then if a match is not found we search for a match on the computer with the ‘fin scan’ program. Possible fin matches are overlaid and assessed in a graphics program. Finally, the resulting data is recorded. There are four people who work on this.

Dolphin FB 438 seen furtherest south April 2009

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

This April, exactly the kind of coastal Dolphin Photo ID coordination we hope for unfolded with Dolphin FB438 – FB indicates he/she has a freeze brand and that the number is 438. Here is his history that we know so far:
Sept. 14, 2003 – he was tagged and freeze branded in New Jersey waters.

March 4, 200
4 – he was sighted off Ocracoke, south of Hatteras Inlet in North Carolina.
April 12, 2004
– Duke University staff or students saw him/her in Frisco, North Carolina.
Feb 20, 2005 – Duke University saw him by Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina. and then
April 28, 2009 – We saw him off Shackleford Banks, about mid-way, off Beaufort, North Carolina, with 12 other dolphins. This is the farthest south he has been sighted that we know of.
Most of us are not able to be out on the water
‘Photo ID ing’ every day, so he may have around much more often and/or even further south or north. If we are able to ID some of the other dolphins in the group of 12, in the future we will want to see if s/he is with any of the same dolphins again.
If the dolphins have smooth fins with no nicks, indentations or marks that are permanent we can not ID them. They will often have scrape marks or superficial scars but these come and go and can not be used for long term ID.
The holes you can see in dorsal fin are the result of a satellite tag that was placed on the dolphin at the same time it was freeze branded.When the tag came off, it left the holes. My understanding is that the area is anesthetized locally before the tag is attached. The people who have watched the procedure, report that there seems to be no reaction from the dolphin from any part of the process.
photos by Keith Rittmaster

Monofilament Recovery & Recycling

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

We Have had a monofilament recovery and recycling program for a while and have tried to implement what has been successful in Florida’s and Georgia’s programs. We have 40 bins already strategically placed and we just set up three more bins on Bogue Banks; one at the new West Beaufort boat ramp and replaced one on the fishing pier along side of the high-rise bridge between Beaufort and Morehead.

This picture is of our new portable recycling bin that we can take to fishing tournaments, fairs or educational programs.

This is a link to an incredible video A Tale of Entanglement,http://vimeo.com/1870031 about the monofilament problem and recycling – be sure to have your volume turned up, the music is beautiful. Some disturbing but all too real images. It is positive at the end.
Then look at their newest video, If the Ocean Could Talk http://vimeo.com/5074427. Some of it was filmed at Cape Lookout Studies waterfront and dock. Keith and some local seventh graders are in it. It is very good


What does that Pelican Have ??

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

When we were out looking for dolphins on Spyhop we went by a pelican sitting in the water between Shackleford and Cape Lookout who seemed very interested in what looked like a brown ball floating on the surface. We turned around and netted whatever it was. It turned out to be a puffer fish as puffed up as possible. A useful defense. I love the way he/she looks – what a cute face.

After we took pictures we gently put it back in the water and as it swan away it deflated down to normal size which was about a third of how it looks in the pictures . It was an unusual and fascinating process to watch.

photos by Keith Rittmaster

Thank You & Sperm Whale C 2-7 Vertebrae Capture

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Thank you http://http://southernfriedscience.com/ for your $200 check from your matching funds challenge for http://bonehenge.org/ and its sperm whale skeleton re-articulation project.
One of the latest triumphs in this project is the replacement of a vertebrae missing from our sperm whale with one approximately the same size (their whale was 33 feet and ours was 33.5 feet). Keith put word out to the international stranding network that he was looking for cervical vertebrae C 2-7. It is called C 2-7 because in sperm whales the 6 cervical vertebrae are fused into one bone.

At Fort De Soto Park in Florida a sperm whale had been buried after stranding and dying a couple of years ago. After much arranging of logistics and a grueling hot day with the back hoe digging up the whale skeleton to find C2-7, the right bone emerged. Success.
It was very smelly and had to go on the plane in a cooler for the trip back to Beaufort. Kitty Litter was the primary ‘de-smeller’ of choice with help from those spray
fragrances. The vertebrae is here at our site on top of the roof drying out and still smelling.

Bottlenose Dolphin Sightings for April and May 2009

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

In this picture the sliver of land behind the dolphins and water is Shackleford Banks where we see a lot of dolphins. Shackleford is unihabited by humans.
Bottlenose dolphin sightings for month of April 2009 in both the ocean and estruary under Keith’s research permit are:
4 days out on water
6 separate sightings and
73 total individual dolphins
and for May 2009

6 days on the water
7 separate sightings and
46 individual dolphins.
In May there were 10 dead neonates on NC beaches which is a record high but we have seen 2 live ones with moms in Beaufort so far and we expect there will be more.
photos by Brooks

Stranded Right Whale

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

This past winter a Right Whale stranded on Shark Island which is right off Cape Lookout near Beaufort, NC.
We were asked to get some additional tissue samples after the necropsy(autopsy for an animal) had been completed. The whale seemed to have been entangled and also to have a curvature of the spine. It was thought to be a 2 year old male. Where it had stranded was a very tricky site only accessible by boat and only at a certain tide.
The first picture shows how even though we mourn the loss of the whale, the seagulls remind us, as we arrive, that nothing is wasted.
Keith and Duck, a volunteer, work at getting the samples as they stand with chilly ocean above their knees.

They returned successful.

The good news is that this year there was the highest number of Atlantic Right Whale calves born in the last number of years. They are very endangered.

photos by Brooks