Dead Dolphin Remains in Reeds off Potowomut

by | Sep 5, 2023

Potowomut resident Donna Siravo first noticed a fin in the reeds by her house Saturday (9/2), then she realized it was a dolphin. She was horrified and reached out to a variety of agencies for help. By Tuesday, the dolphin was still there, lodged far enough into the reeds that it seemed unlikely it would wash back out to sea.

“We’ve been in touch with Mystic Aquarium and they said they’d try to get someone here this week to remove it. If that doesn’t happen, the DEM Division of Marine Fisheries will get someone over to remove it,” said Dept. of Environmental Management’s chief public affairs officer Michael Healey. “DEM and Mystic are partners in handling marine mammal strandings, i.e., dead whales, dolphins, and seals that wash ashore in Rhode Island. In some instances — particularly when it’s a whale — Mystic will conduct a necropsy to try to determine the cause of death.”

A Mystic volunteer has visited the site and measured the dolphin at 109 inches, according to Siravo. It is a bottlenose dolphin, “a widespread and abundant species,” according to Healey. “It occurs in tropical and temperate coastal and pelagic marine waters (50 degrees to 90 degrees) worldwide. ‘Pelagic’ means fish that inhabit the upper layers of the sea. Bottlenose dolphins are common in the northwestern Atlantic and often are seen by commercial fishermen in Rhode Island Sound and inshore off our coastlines, so it’s not surprising that one made its way to Greenwich Bay.”

Healey said there were a couple of possibilities for how the dolphin may have ended up there. “Most likely, this animal was chasing prey and got beached by the tide, perhaps the very high and strong tides caused by the super moons and blue moons that Rhode Island has recently experienced,” he said.

He said another theory comes from NOAA Fisheries: “‘(T)hey are easy to view in the wild because they live close to shore and are distributed throughout coastal and estuarine waters. But this puts bottlenose dolphins at increased risk of human-related injuries and death.’ So, it’s also possible that the dolphin suffered a vessel strike, died, and washed ashore.”

Siravo expressed frustration Tuesday, saying officials told her they would let nature take its course. When reached later with the update that someone would be dealing with the dolphin in coming days, she said she was relieved. The idea of just letting the dolphin slowly decompose there didn’t seem right, she said, noting the nearby houses, and the dogs and coyotes in the area.

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