Life and Death in the Beaufort Waters – One Dolphin Carrying Dead Neonate And Another Dolphin Photographed Eating Needlefish

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized


Yesterday (April 5, 2010) we received a call from Outer Banks Ferry Captain Bob Rust about a dolphin ‘with a bag on its head’ swimming with a small pod from Taylors Creek toward Pivers Island. Within half an hour we were out on the water looking for this pod. With help from Annie Gorgone, Paula Gillikin, Carl Spangler, Brooks, Keith Rittmaster and Bob Rust, we found the small pod of 5 dolphins who were each of a relatively small size, one perhaps even a calf. One of the dolphins clearly had something on her head, right where her rostrum and melon met. It was long and very thin and looked like an eel at first.
As we got closer, we could see it was a dead neonate, or possibly a non-term fetus. Although, we do not know for certain, we assume that the dolphin carrying the carcass is its presumed mother. It was heartbreaking to see and to imagine what that presumed mother must have been feeling.
She was first ‘IDed’ here in winter 1999 – #2565 – named “Sammy” – as one of our regular winter dolphins. We have had 20 total sightings of her in the Beaufort area and had recently seen her in February 2010. This is the first time we have seen her with offspring. As far as we know, she is not matched with any other site. The first born of a dolphin will often die of toxins, but 11 years old is pretty old to have a first born. Sometimes dolphins pushing or carrying around dead neonates are seen alone. We were heartened to see her with other dolphins and possibly even a mother-calf pair. We will keep a sharp eye out for “Sammy” to see if she stays with her group and if/when she might again give birth .

And, now for a reminder that life goes on for the dolphins, Keith took this picture the other day of a dolphin eating a Needlefish.

Photos by Keith Rittmaster. Please do not copy without permission.

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