Whale 5077885835_7a3e271616_q
Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Update 1/24/15: The stranding number has been corrected below.

By Connie Leinbach

Encountering distressed dolphins on the Ocracoke beach this fall prompted David Mickey and Sue Dayton to bring a program on whales to the Deepwater Theater, School Lane, at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9.

Sponsored by Ocracoke Alive, Keith Rittmaster, the natural science curator at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, Beaufort, will give a free talk on “Coastal Whales in North Carolina.”

“He does a great job with lots of personal anecdotes,” Mickey said about Rittmaster’s program. “He’s run into quite a few whales in his travels all over the world.”

In addition to an overview of the different whale species, Rittmaster will bring skeletal specimens for a “show-and-tell,” and also talk about the whaling industry and other threats to these mammals.

Mickey got to know Rittmaster and his wife, Vicky Thayer, after Mickey and Dayton encountered a dead dolphin on the beach in October. Thayer, who is a member of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, assists often in aiding stranded marine mammals on the coast, Mickey said.

He and Dayton stayed and watched the necropsy of the deceased dolphin in October, and after that visited the maritime museum.

Then, in late November, Mickey said, someone found a stranded dolphin on the beach in the early morning hours. Thayer and Rittmaster had already been called and caught a 7 a.m. ferry to the island, Mickey said. Mickey joined the operation on the beach and witnessed the subsequent euthanasia of the stranded dolphin.

“Unfortunately, there’s not much they can do,” he said about these strandings, and euthanasia is often the only choice because there are no facilities around where these animals can be treated.  While it also was sad, “it was quite impressive,” he said about that morning’s activity.

With these events, Mickey was most concerned about who does one call when there is a stranded marine mammal on the beach?

The National Park Service here didn’t know, Mickey said.  With a Google search, he found the Stranding Network.

Mickey said there also will be information about the monofilament fishing line collection program where people who find fishing line on the beach can take it to be recycled.

Mickey said if beach-goers find a stranded marine mammal on the beach, the Stranding Network phone number is 252-241-5119.

The euthanized dolphin is taken off the Ocracoke beach in November. Photo by Kelley Shinn.
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