What to do if you find a stranded marine mammal?

Atlantic bottlenose dolphin rescue after Hurricane Katrina, by U.S. Navy, Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and other local organizations. Gulfport, MS. Photo courtesy of United States Navy.

Atlantic bottlenose dolphin rescue after Hurricane Katrina, by U.S. Navy, Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and other local organizations. Gulfport, MS. Sept. 2005. Photo courtesy of United States Navy.

It’s a rare occurrence, but if you live along a coastline it could happen to you. You’re enjoying a day at the beach, when, in the distance, you see a stranded marine mammal! Naturally, you want to help if its sick or injured, or if it’s an orphaned youngster. But remember, it’s illegal to interfere with a marine mammal in any way under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. So what should you do?

1. Keep your distance. Stay 50 yards or more away from it. If it’s a youngster, your presence could keep its mother from coming to its rescue. If it’s injured or sick, your proximity will add to the animal’s distress. Be sure to keep dogs and other people far, far away, too!

2. Observe the animal carefully from a distance. What are you observing that makes you believe it is sick, injured or orphaned? How large is it? What color is it? If you can tell from that distance, does it have ear flaps or is it earless?

3. Note your exact location to the best of your ability. Most phones can provide exact latitude and longitude data from map apps.

4. Then, contact the nearest marine mammal organization. They will take your information and know what to do next. Follow their instructions. It’s good to wait until they get there in case they need additional information before they arrive.

5. Know you’ve been a good friend to these magnificent animals by getting them the help they need. Thank you!

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