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Experts Stumped By Rash Of Dolphin Deaths In Long Island Waters

Officials: Dead Dolphins Washed Ashore On A Near-Daily Basis In July
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NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A troubling trend in the waters off of Long Island has mystified marine experts.

Dolphins are dying off in unusually high numbers.

Almost every day over the past month a dolphin has washed up dead on a Long Island beach.

Roxanne, a Risso dolphin, chomps down 75 pounds of squid a day, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported. That’s a big improvement from the day that she washed up on an Oak Beach sand bar on the verge of death.

“We generally don’t see two dolphins reported in one day, and we started seeing that,” Riverhead Foundation Rescue Program director Kimberly Dunham said.

From Montauk to Queens there has been a dramatic uptick in bottle nosed dolphin deaths over the past month, experts said. There were 17 in July, compared to just three in July 2012.

“It was very clear that we were seeing an increase,” Dunham said.

There was evidence of illness, but forensic exams showed no evidence of man-made injury.

“The individual is being challenged, It’s not eating, and it’s losing weight and suffering from parasites,” Dunahm explained. “These are all normal factors, but is there something that is relating them all together?”

Could it be an infection? Or something in the water? Experts remain unsure. The Riverhead Foundation notified the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which claimed that the water quality has been normal.

“It’s troubling when you see so many of them wash up on the beach dead. It’s something none of us likes to see,” said Rescue Program supervisor Julika Wocial. “We still try to collect data from them so we hope there will be some positives from those deaths.”

A similar trend has been noticed in New Jersey, where experts told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond that the deaths could be caused by a naturally occurring virus that killed 90 dolphins in 1987.

“One of the dolphins had a virus known as Morbillivirus, and this is a type of virus that is found in dolphin populations that can spread from dolphin to dolphin. At this point, we don’t know if that is the cause of all of the deaths but additional study results will determine if that is indeed the case,” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna told WCBS 880.

With dolphin carcasses becoming a near-daily discovery, Roxanne’s story has a happy ending. She has reached a healthy 700 pounds and will be released back into the sea with a monitoring device at the end of the summer.

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