Hurricanes Might Be Blamed for Mass Dolphin Strandings Near Port St. Joe

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Local marine officials say Hurricane Jeanne may be partially responsible for the stranding of 13 rough tooth dolphins.

Beachgoers found the pod stranded in the surf at Cape San Blas in Gulf County. Five were transported to GulfWorld at Panama City for medical treatments.

Ron Hardy of Gulf World is an expert in these type situations and says, "Anytime they're on the beach they're very sick. In mass strandings they could be following a leader dolphin."

Rescue workers tried to push the 13 stranded mammals back out to sea. Eight made it, but the remaining five returned and beached themselves once again. The five, four females and a juvenile male were transported back to GulfWorld at Panama City Beach for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. Two of them died within hours of being rescued. That leaves three still being treated.

Hardy already has an idea of what could have gone wrong and says, “We see more strandings after a storm because it stresses them. We suspect the dolphins were sick already and all the hurricanes stressed them even more."

The experts say one thing is fore sure; these dolphins have no connection with the more than 100 which died this past spring in the same area. Their deaths were ultimately attributed to eating fish contaminated by the Red Tide.

For now, the four dolphins are being tested and their symptoms are being monitored.

In mass strandings, usually about 10 percent survive. The rescuers are hoping for better odds this time.