• 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.

Where Is Cape Lookout Studies Office ?

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Cape Lookout Studies Program

The black arrow points to our office. There is the small Beaufort airport behind us and Town Creek marina next to us.

Below is another view. We are in the white trailer with the tiny white arrow that is closest to the Marina. The dock just to the left in the picture is where we keep our boat. Further to the left are the Gallants Channel Docks and land that are, like us, an extension of the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Since this picture was taken, more floating docks have been added and the historical Ward-Hancock house has been moved here.

Here is a picture shot from the other side that was taken before the Gallants Channel docks were built.
Our office is all the way to the left. Across the water is the Beaufort draw bridge with work boats to the right of the bridge.
And finally, here we are at the end of the small white arrow. Across the water and marsh from us is part of the Morehead City Port and just out of view is the Morehead City high rise bridge. We feel lucky to be in such a beautiful and convenient location. From our dock, we have easy access to either the ocean or estuary for our Dolphin Photo ID work.

Updates – Fin Whale Stranding – Fishing Line Recycling & Wild Dolphin License Plate

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

This is now updated through May 1, 2010. The good news is that the amount we recycle continues to increase.

The ‘Save the Wild Dolphin’ license plates didn’t do as well, but economics can probably explain that.

This article appeared in our local paper about the May 31, 2010 fin whale stranding in the North River.



Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

All photos by Keith Rittmaster
We saw the jelly fish above today at the dock. It is Chrysaora quinquecirrha or “stinging nettle”. It has a semi-transparent bell typically with small white dots and reddish-brown stripes radiating out from the center. Long tentacles extend below the bell. The bell is  1 to 12 inches in diameter. Its sting can be painful.
Thetwo jelly fish below we often see in summer. They are the  Stomolophus meleagris or “cannonball jelly”.They are round, milky in color and somewhat rigid with a reddish-brown pattern becoming darker towards bell margin. Its tentacles are short and dense under the bell. Their sting is very mild, if felt at all. They often have small crabs and fish living all the way inside under the bell. Their round bell presents a ball-like appearance, from tennis ball size to soccer ball. The dolphin below seemed to have noticed its ball potential.

Dolphin With Skate or Ray

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Keith saw this from the boat. The dolphin had the skate or sting ray in its mouth and the skate/ray gradually disappeared further and further into the dolphin’s mouth. The dolphin went underwater so Keith doesn’t know if the dolphin actually swallowed it. What do you think, skate or ray ??


Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

April’s dolphin Photo ID sightings under NOAA Fisheries protected species research permit No. 779-1633-00. We were out on the water 6 days and had 19 sightings with a total of 294 individual dolphins.

Under the NC Monofilament Recovery  and Recycling Program, staff at Camp LeJuene installed 18 outdoor bins on their military base.
We’ve been busy with strandings.
Since this is a really short update, I thought I would add something interesting.

Here is an x-ray of the interior vascular structure of a dolphin’s dorsal fin.

Right Whales, Humpback Whale, Dolphins, Shackleford Horses and Turtles – A “National Geo” Day

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

April 20th, a perfect day for Photo ID and we were out there early, welcomed by ‘sundogs’.
all photos by Keith Rittmaster
There were lots of dolphins – adults, juveniles and a couple of calves.
Then we saw a mom and calf right whale and nearby them, a humpback whale – we were surprised to see the two species so near each other

To the left is the right whale mom’s head while blowing and the right shows mom and calf along side each other. The mom is ‘Insignia’, #2645, and her calf was first seen with her on March 5th south of us. Insignia was born in 1996 and has been seen in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mass Bay, Cape Cod Bay, Great South Channel, Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy. Insignia’s mom is #1245, ‘Slalom’, who was born in 1982. ‘Slalom’ is the calf of #1140, ‘Wart’. New England Aquarium keeps an extensive North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog.
As Keith and Nan compared our records and photos and the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog
they discovered they had seen Insignia as a yearling with Slalom, her mom, off Fort Macon 23Feb1996. That was exciting and makes us feel good about all the data collecting and recording we do.
Then we saw the humpback whale who was near by at the same time.
We saw the humpback ‘lunge feed’ facing in our direction. It was very impressive but it happened so fast, we didn’t get a picture.
And if all this wasn’t enough, we also met with a number of loggerhead turtles.The first picture shows him/her surfacing to breathe and the next swimming underwater, where he looks like he is flying..

What a day ! And then, on the way home we saw one of the Shackleford Horses resting on the ocean side shore.

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.


Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, monofilament recycling

Not as exciting as Baja and whales, but here are the Cape Lookout Studies updates this month.

The skull is still in the jacuzzi releasing grease – this whale had an amazing amount of grease. Two huge limbs from the oak tree just above the jacuzzi almost smashed the skull in a snow storm. Pierre-Henry Fontaine from Quebec visited Bonehenge (and our sperm whale) and offered sage advice. Starting with the tail, we’ve begun fabricating intervertebral discs, and we’re drilling through vertebrae and mounting them on 3/8″ stainless allthread. Dominic Brown, from Channel 12,ran a news story about Bonehenge, which portrayed his, and our, excitement about this project.

Central NC Marine Mammal Strandings.
At the annual NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network Conference in February, Keith requested an entire adult right whale skeleton should one happen to come ashore at a convenient location and time. Keith also agreed to develop a form to be used by anyone for formally requesting specimens, data, samples, photos, analysis etc. from stranded marine mammals in NC.
Vicky Thayer will present North Carolina delphinid stranding diversity from 1992-2009 at the SEAMAMMS Conference March 26-28 in Virginia Beach.

Our web sites and blog, have been wonderfully busy.

Bottlenose dolphin photo ID
Even with really tough weather conditions, we got out 5 days, had 11 sightings and have dorsal fin photos of 85 dolphins. We continue to see Manteo and Virginia Beach dolphins plus a few freeze brands.

The ‘Protect Wild Dolphin’ License Plate quarterly check was $3,180.This money really helps support our research. If you live in NC, please consider joining our group of dolphin plate people.
Click here for license plate information.

NC Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program
Two little used bins were removed from Emerald Isle beaches. One new outdoor bin went to Sarah Falkowski of Outer banks Center for Wildlife Education for use in Currituck County. One outdoor bin and one indoor box went to Allen Fitz of Network for Endangered Sea Turtles for use in Dare County.

Keith & Wild Life in Baja, Mexico

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized

Keith & wildlife in Baja, Mexico.Keith joined a friend and colleague on a whale, and other wild- life, observation journey. Here are some of his pictures, there will more pictures and text soon.
These gray whale pictures are from Magdelena Bay, Baja, Mexico. On the bottom, are the gray whale’s blow holes and above on top, a gray whale right next to the boat and above center, gray whale flukes as whale goes into a dive.

Keith holding up rock and a blue booby – you can probably tell which is which.

Below, sea lions and a paper nautilus shell.

Blue whale mom and calf.


Pelican practicing full moon diving.
So, that’s it for now.
All pictures by Keith Rittmaster – Please do not copy without permission.

Field Guides & Turtle Watch


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