• 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.

Florida SeaTurtle Necropsies Done in Beaufort NC

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Sea turtles

Around half of the approximately 400 ‘cold stunned’ sea turtles sent to Beaufort, NC from Florida have been necropsied. Measurements and weights were taken; samples of skin, tissue and anything unusual were taken and all internal organs and external parts were examined. It seems so far that there was no common pathology in most of the turtles to suggest that death was from a problem other than the cold but all data is not in.
Most had food in their stomachs and intestines suggesting they were healthy and eating until the cold. This one had a bite o
ut of it’s side that was completely healed.

The feathery looking part below is the esophagus and the frilly edge that looks like a wave coming on shore is the lung. The lung is all the color of the edge, the red is from warm water being poured into
the cavity in an effort to thaw the insides.
There were more female sea turtles that were necropsied but the population in general has more females.
It was a great collaboration of agencies and individuals to get this number of necropsies done in such a short time. The rest will be done after everyone has been able to get back to their regular work for a while.

‘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.

2009 Thank you donors, volunteers, contributors and collaborators.

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Thank You / Volunteer

Listed below are individuals/groups whose generosity helped sustain the Cape Lookout Studies Program in 2009 by providing printer ink, photo paper, office supplies, Honda 115hp 4-stroke outboard motor, boat batteries, tools, propane, hardware, cleaning supplies, lumber, water heater, hand soap, food, notebooks, XM Radio subscription, web hosting fees, web site maintenance, CD player, vice, drill, drill press, hand tools, boat fuel, boat use, $8,028 in cash donations/grants, and approximately 2,000 hours of volunteer time.  THANK YOU!!  A sincere thanks also goes out to everyone who has an NC “Protect Wild Dolphins special license plates which raised for Friends of the Museum a total of $13,360 in 2009.   The dolphins thank you too.

Amy ThullenAndrew ThalerArthur Mattmiller
Beaufort Middle School

Beth Bockoven

Bobbi Brown

Bonnie Monteleone


Bruce McCutcheon

Bud and Anna Doughton

Cape Lookout Nat’l Seashore

Carl Spangler

Carolina Cay Maritime Found.

Cindy Van Dover

Connie Owens

Craig Harms

Dail Bridges

Dana Henderson

Danielle Waples

Daphne Littiken

David Brown

David Perry

Dee Dee Pucella

Denise Greer

Dick Barmore

Doug Nodine

Elizabeth White

Eve Johnson

Friends of the Museum

Green River PreserveHarbor SpecialtiesHaywood + Mary Holderness

Howard Lineberger

Hugh Wilde

Janet Frye

Janet Thayer

Jim Thullen

Joanne McNeill

John Brewer

John Costlow

John Dulaney

John Hammond

John Russell

Jon Altman

Josh Summers

Karen Hattman

Karen Sayles

Kathy Reinsel

Keith Rittmaster

Kim Jones

Kim Merrels

Larry Copeland

Linda Boyer

Lora Fasolino

Marissa McCabe

Mark + Carolyn Fonseca/Currin

Nan Bowles

NC Aquarium, PKS

NC EstuariumNelson OwensNOAA Fisheries

Patti Owens

Paul Nader

Paula Gilliken

pene diMaio

Penny + Isabella Larson

Pete Pucella

Pudge McCutcheon

Stephen Hassenfelt

Steve Hassenfelt

Surfrider Foundation

Terry Greene

The Lookout Foundation

Tim Healow

Todd + Natalie Jesdale

Tom Bulla

Tom Darden

Tom Hesselink

Tom Kirmeyer

Tom Lenweaver

Triangle Community Found.

Trotter Bagley

Vic Fasolino

Vicky Thayer

Virginia Stambaugh

William Prentice


Field Guides & Turtle Watch


Just a few of our collaborators

Here's a random selection from our collaborating partners. Visit the About Us page to see them all.