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Cops: Search for dart at 'less of a pace'

Coast Guard boat out of Montauk was back

Coast Guard boat out of Montauk was back and forth in the area of East Hampton Village where the dart bounced off the whale and went missing. (April 10, 2010) Credit: Doug Kuntz

With more than three days having passed since a dart used in an unsuccessful attempt to save a beached whale went missing, police say they're slowing the pace of the search.

Police over the weekend searched a 4-mile stretch of ocean beach in East Hampton but did not find the 27-inch dart.

"We're still searching, but at less of a pace," Chief Gerard Larsen Jr. of East Hampton Village Police said Monday.

Police are now searching once in the morning to see if it washed up overnight. Larsen said the dart is either floating or the current has taken it out to sea by now.

The dart, which officials said contained a 50-milliliter dose of the sedatives Midazolam and medetomidine - a dangerous level for humans and animals - was fired at the humpback whale late Thursday, but glanced off the animal. The whale was euthanized Friday.

The projectile probably no longer contains any sedative, officials say, but beachgoers who find such an item should treat it as a biohazard and immediately call authorities.

On Saturday, East Hampton Town Police dove around the area where the whale was stranded to see if they could find the dart, but to no avail. The town's marine patrol is checking the beach east of the village as well, Larsen said.

While searching for the dart Sunday morning, Sgt. Richard Mamay found a female gray seal pup just west of where the whale washed up. He notified the Riverhead Foundation, and staff arrived and transported the seal to their facility.

Kim Durham, rescue director for the foundation, said the pup is on antibiotics and is doing well. The pup will most likely be returned to the sea in six weeks, barring any other medical problems.

This is the time of year when seals are in the waters off Long Island, and some end up on shore, she said. This weekend, four pups washed ashore - one was found dead, a harp seal went right back into the ocean at Jones Beach, and two others were taken to the Riverhead Foundation for assessment and treatment.

"We currently have 14 or 15 seals in house," Durham said, adding that the waters off East Hampton are popular stomping ground for the seals.

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