Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Strandings of Marine Mammals

Strandings can be live or dead, a single animal or a group of related individuals. Causes can be anything from a calf separated from its mother in heavy weather to death from old age. Mortal contact with vessels, oil spills, and entanglement in fishing gear are common anthropogenic (human-caused) events which can lead to a stranding.

Responding to a Stranding
Safety is first. These are wild animals in a stressed condition. They do bite. Some can carry diseases which can be transmitted to pets and humans.
Reporting a stranding is the best way to help stranded animals. It also provides biologists valuable opportunities to study the animals and their environment.

1. Keep people and dogs away.
2. Observe and report to an official agency.
3. Identify, distinguish between a baleen whale and a toothed whale, seal or sea lion or otter. Estimate size, note color, and comment on the nature of vocalizations.
4. Is the animal dead or alive, lethargic, injured, bleeding, or entangled.
5. Be as precise as possible, making note of landmarks and beach accessibility.
6. Are tags on the mammal, on which flipper do they appear? What color are they? Can you safely read the tag numbers?

1. Move, Touch, or Disturb the animal.
2. Try to drive animals back into the water.
3. Pour water on a seal, sea lion, or sea otter.
4. Try to feed any wild animal.

Marine mammals are protected by federal law. It is illegal for unauthorized persons to disturb, handle, or feed them. It is also illegal to collect or possess parts of marine mammals from dead strandings.