For the third time in a week, a dead bottlenose dolphin has been found in Beaufort County waters.
Beaufort resident Susan Trogdon said she was paddling in the Harbour River about 10:30 a.m. Saturday when she saw the body of the bottlenose floating in the marsh grass. The animal had a shallow, foot-long scrape on its side, said Trogdon, who contacted the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
"We saw lots of happy, healthy ones, they were all around us, so it was quite shocking and very sad," Trogdon said.
It's too soon to tell what killed the dolphin, or another bottlenose dolphin found dead in the May River in Bluffton on Thursday, according to Jessica Conway, a marine biologist with the center testing the animals, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network in Charleston. The Bluffton dolphin arrived at the network's facility in Charleston on Saturday and has not yet been tested, she said.
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On Monday, another dying bottlenose dolphin washed ashore on Hilton Head Island and died before marine biologists could reach it. That animal appeared to be an older dolphin and could have had pneumonia and a weak heart, according to Wayne McFee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While dolphin populations along the East Coast have been crippled since July by a deadly outbreak of morbillivirus, Conway said she cannot speculate as to what caused the recent deaths in Beaufort County.
Those who find a stranded dolphin should not attempt to push the animal back into the water but should should call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-800-922-5431.
"It could injure yourself or the dolphin," she said. "They do have teeth and they can bite if they're hurt or struggling, and they don't usually strand if they're not already sick."