VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – More dead dolphins washed up on Virginia beaches over the weekend. The total number hit 164 dolphins Monday, after 25 were found along the coast from Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore.
The stranding response team at the Virginia Aquarium says the volume is so high, they may need help.
“Twenty-six dolphins in one weekend is something we can’t handle,” said Susan Barco, a researcher at the Virginia Aquarium. “If it continues at this rate, we are going to have to ask for outside help.”
Doctors from out of state are already aiding with the dolphin autopsies, known as necropsies. Dead dolphins were left at the door of the marine care center, because the freezers are already full. Most of the dolphins affected are males of all ages.
“We’re seeing lesions in their respiratory systems. We’re seeing joint problems. We’re not seeing animals feeding normally,” said Barco. “A lot of them are thin.”
Barco began her career in 1987, when the morbillivirus killed 740 dolphins. She says this time around the situation seems worse.
And because scientists aren’t sure what’s to blame, they want citizens to stay away from dead dolphins.
“We are certainly concerned about animals having diseases that can be passed to humans and their pets,” said Barco.
The problem is so widespread even tourists are taking notice.
“When we heard there was a whole bunch of them dying, it was sad,” said Kara Clark, who took her 6-year-old daughter on a dolphin tour to see the ocean for the first time.
They hope scientists will be able to figure out what is causing the deaths.
But, the stranding team says financial resources are also a problem. They are considering hiring more staff specifically for help with the dolphins. The grant set aside for this year’s costs has already been spent on strandings.