Common dolphin stranding in Hampshire

On 28 March, BDMLR Medics helped two common dolphins stranded on mud in the Eastoke area of Hayling Island, Hampshire. A local resident, found the animals and called the BDMLR emergency number. They provided pictures and video which allowed the rescue coordinator to identify which species and provide some basic first aid advice to help the animals before Medics arrived.

Within half an hour we had eight Medics (including two veterinarians) on their way, and rescue equipment was also en route from our Head Office in East Sussex. By 2pm our first volunteer was on scene and with help from the first informant was able to find the animals, so he could take over first aid and conduct an assessment. Ten minutes later a second Medic arrived, but at the same time the slightly larger of the two dolphins sadly passed away. While the other Medics arrived the remaining live dolphin was made comfortable and we worked on reducing the animal’s breathing rate, which was dangerously high. When the rescue equipment arrived the animal was supported in the water using a tarpaulin and the breathing rate, although still high, was much more stable so it was moved onto our inflatable pontoons and supporting mat.

At around 3.30pm discussions were held as to whether the dolphin would be suitable for release if the breathing could be brought to a normal rate, and whether the current location was suitable for the young animal, as the area is very shallow with many small inlets and muddy banks where a disorientated animal could re-strand. The decision was made to look at relocating the dolphin to the open water of The Solent, where the risks of restranding would be much lower. The two options for transport would be by road, or by boat, neither of which could be done until the animal was in a stable condition, and would then still be a big risk. Transporting by road was ruled out as due to the time of day we would be very likely to get help up in traffic, so we made a call to HM Coastguard to ask if they could offer assistance to move the dolphin by boat, they were able to make contact with the RNLI Inshore Lifeboat who were in the area, and they agreed to come to assist. 

While the team waited for the boat to arrive, the dolphin’s condition deteriorated, its breathing rate escalated again and it was displaying other worrying signs of poor health that we had not seen up until then. By the time the boat had arrived, we were certain that putting the dolphin back in the water would ultimately have result in restranding and a poor prognosis. At approximately 6pm, and with the vet’s final assessment, the decision was made to euthanise the dolphin on welfare grounds.

Both dolphins were male, one at 1.6m and one at 1.7m, which would age them at around two years old. The two dolphins are now with the Cetacean Stranding Investigation Programme and a post mortem examination will be carried out today, which will tell us more about their health and perhaps why they came to be stranded in the first place.

We would like to thank our Medics for their hard work; the residents of Eastoke for their kindness to the dolphins and to our volunteers, providing a safe place for us to change and hot drinks throughout the afternoon; HMCG and the RNLI for their support; and Huckleberry Vets in Chichester for their veterinary assistance. 

You can find more information on what to do if you find a stranded dolphin here.