Wellfleet, MA -- Four dolphins stranded from a herd of eight caught swimming during low tide on Thanksgiving on Cape Cod have been rescued.
Rescuers stabilized the common dolphins, carried them out of the mud at Herring River, and placed them into a rescue trailer for health exams. All four were deemed healthy enough to be released back into the ocean.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare said its Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team herded three other dolphins out of danger Thanksgiving day, but one died. The cause of death was unclear.
IFAW volunteers and rescuers, as well as AmeriCorps and the National Park Service, released one dolphin bull and three cows from Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown.
There have been 262 dolphin strandings so far this year, more than eight times greater than the average of 38, IFAW spokesman Michael Booth said.
The rise in strandings adds to a total of more than 340 seal, whale, porpoise, and dolphin strandings this year, Booth said.
Researchers are trying to figure out exactly why the number of marine mammals being stranded has increased. Main factors include the area's topography, which includes gently sloping beaches and the hooklike geography of Cape Cod and Wellfleet Bay.
"It’s sort of the worst place for dolphins to be in," Booth said. "So every time we hear a report of dolphins in that area, we know that there’s a good likelihood they’ll wind up stranded."
Tidal fluctuations always add to the number of dolphins and other marine mammals being stranded. The social nature of dolphins keeps them together even if one is sick or disoriented, which leads to more of them being left behind from their herd.