An ailing common dolphin died in Manhasset Bay on Wednesday morning, despite the efforts of a host of rescuers who had labored even after night fell Tuesday to free it, a rescue official said.
Since January, the New York Marine Rescue Center has responded to 13 dolphins that have either died naturally or been euthanized, said Maxine Montello, rescue program director for the Riverhead nonprofit.
"It’s definitely been a busy year," Montello said. While the number is not unusual, she said, "It’s definitely something we want to keep a close eye on."
A civilian, four Nassau police officers, and members of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, the Great Neck Alert Volunteer Fire Company and the New York Marine Rescue Center all tried to help the dolphin after learning it was trapped in the mud near Bayview Circle about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Nassau police, in a statement issued late Tuesday, described the difficult and even punishing efforts to save the dolphin.
"The dolphin was lifted onto a kayak and dragged approximately 300 feet through the knee-deep mud to an open area of water," Nassau police said. "The officers and civilian placed the dolphin in the water and made their way back to shore."
The dolphin was left in water deep enough for it to swim, the police statement said, adding that two officers sustained lacerations to their feet and were treated at a hospital.
Members of the Great Neck Alert Volunteer Fire Company and the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department attempted to guide the dolphin to deeper water from a small boat.
But, Montello said of the dolphin, "It just was not doing so well last night, and it became too tricky with the light (fading) and the safety of everybody" to continue.
"The behavior we saw last night, when the animal was kind of swimming, it was doing a lot of twitching behavior, and swimming in tight circles, which is usually correlated to stress," Montello said. "And then this morning, when we got out there, the animal passed pretty quickly."
Often, when lone dolphins are spotted swimming in areas like the muddy flats of Manhasset Bay or creeks or rivers, it is a sign they are not healthy. These marine mammals can encounter numerous hazards, from polluted water to getting trapped in fishing gear, scientists say.
Noise from boats and ships is another peril, as is getting struck by these vessels.
The dolphin will be necropsied by the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society of Hampton Bays.
Also on Tuesday, an approximately 1-year-old female harp seal was retrieved from the beach by the Fire Island Lighthouse. The seal was so dehydrated that it might not have lasted another day, Montello said.
The seal, an Arctic species accustomed to eating snow to stay hydrated, had been eating sand, Montello said.
"It’s a stress behavior, correlated to people getting too close to the animal," she said.
With Robert Brodsky