Dying bottlenose found on Hilton Head, adding to the rise in SC dolphin deaths

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comMarch 17, 2014 

In this file photo, a dolphin swims along the side of a boat in Broad Creek.

FILE, THE ISLAND PACKET — File, The Island Packet

A dying bottlenose dolphin washed ashore Monday morning on a southern Hilton Head Island beach, the 26th dolphin stranded along South Carolina's coast this year, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine biologist.

The dolphin was found alive on the beach between Sea Pines and Marriott's Grande Ocean Resort at about 8 a.m., but it died before marine biologists could reach it, said marine mammal stranding program scientist Wayne McFee.

McFee said no cause of death has been determined, but a necropsy would be performed Tuesday in Charleston.

A likely cause is the morbillivirus strain that has ravaged dolphin populations along the East Coast. McFee said 95 percent of the dolphins tested for the virus have tested positive.

In 2013, there were 112 stranded dolphins in the state, the "highest South Carolina has ever seen," McFee said.

McFee said people who come across dolphins on beaches should leave them alone and call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 800-922-5431.

He said people tried repeatedly to push the dolphin found Monday back into the ocean. Pushing it back into the water doesn't help the animal and could result in injury to the person if the dolphin tries to resist, he said.

S.C. Department of Natural Resources Lt. Michael Paul Thomas said people should not handle the dolphins because of the possibility of transmitting diseases. The morbillivirus cannot be transmitted to humans, but infected dolphins could be carrying other diseases or bacteria that can be transmitted, he said.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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