Dead dolphin spotted in river near Palmetto Bluff

03/20/2014 5:51 PM

03/20/2014 6:01 PM

A bottlenose dolphin was found dead Thursday afternoon in Bluffton's May River, the second dolphin to have died in Beaufort County this week, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine biologist.

The dolphin was spotted floating in the river near Palmetto Bluff around 12:40 p.m., said marine mammal stranding program scientist Wayne McFee.

Since the 5-foot dolphin was first spotted, authorities have not been able to secure it. McFee said the changing tide moves the dolphin's body and makes it difficult to find.

It was the 27th dolphin stranded along South Carolina's coast this year, according to McFee. In 2013, there were 112 stranded dolphins in the state -- the most South Carolina has ever seen, he said.

Earlier this week, a dying bottlenose dolphin washed ashore on a southern Hilton Head Island beach. The dolphin was found alive on the beach between Sea Pines and Marriott's Grande Ocean Resort at about 8 a.m. Monday, but it died before marine biologists could reach it, McFee said.

An official cause of death has not yet been determined, but the dolphin appeared to be an older animal because its teeth were worn down to the gums, McFee said. The dolphin also possibly had pneumonia and a weakening heart muscle, he said.

The administration is awaiting results to see if the dolphin had the morbillivirus strain, which it won't know for several weeks.

This virus has ravaged dolphin populations along the East Coast, and 95 percent of the dolphins tested for the virus have tested positive, McFee said.

People who come across dolphins on beaches should leave them alone and call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 800-922-5431.

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