Over 100 Dolphins Rescued During Mass Stranding Event

By: David Donovan | Published: Jul 02, 2024

Animal rescuers managed over 100 dolphins from shallow waters around Cape Cod over the weekend.

This came after around 125 of the Atlantic white-sided dolphins became stranded in the area.

Animal Casualties

An estimated 13 dolphins died and one must be euthanized, as indicated by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which assisted in spearheading the salvage attempt. 

IFAW members helping with beach rescue for stranded dolphins

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The not-for-profit said it was the biggest mass stranding it had overseen on the Cape during its 26-year history locally.


Reason for Stranding

According to rescuers, there is no clear explanation for why these dolphins became stuck. 

Rescuer helping with efforts to save stranded dolphins

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Due to its curved shores and erratic tides, Cape Cod is known as a global stranding hotspot.

Initial Discovery

Groups in Massachusetts found one gathering of 10 Atlantic white-sided dolphins swimming in a perilously shallow region at sunrise on Saturday.

Woman petting a dog outdoors wearing IFAW uniform

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They managed to usher them out into deeper water in order to prevent them from stranding.

Larger Groups

According to the organization, Scouts also discovered a second group of 25 dolphins swimming close to the shore near Eastham. 

Dolphins swimming underwater

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Groups attempted to herd them away as the tide dropped over the course of the morning.

Known Location

Ten dolphins died during the stranding Friday at The Gut — or Great Island — in Wellfleet, at the Herring River. 

Dolphin being rescued by IFAW members on a beach on a stretcher

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The Gut is the site of continuous strandings, which specialists accept is expected to some degree due to its hook-like shape and extreme tidal changes.


Numerous Obstacles

The organization’s stranding coordinator, Misty Niemeyer, stated over the weekend that rescuers encountered numerous obstacles on Friday. 

IFAW worker helping a dolphin on a stretcher

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These difficulties included adverse mud conditions and the dispersed dolphin population over a large area.


Niemeyer Statement

Niemeyer made the following remarks in a statement: “It was a 12-hour exhausting response in the unrelenting sun.” 

Two dolphins in the water

Unsplash user Ranae Smith

She went on to say, “But the team was able to overcome the various challenges and give the dolphins their best chance at survival.”


Rescue Efforts

The group says that the team started out on foot, herding the animals into deeper water

Dolphins swimming underwater

Unsplash user TJ Fitzsimmons

They then used three small boats with underwater pingers, which make noise underwater.


Staff and Volunteers

Those assisting with the rescue effort included over 25 staff from the association and 100 trained volunteers. 

school of grey dolphins underwater

Unsplash user Rudney Uezu

The gathering additionally had the help of Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the Center for Coastal Studies, AmeriCorps of Cape Cod, and the New England Aquarium.


Position in US

According to reporting from WCVB Boston, the area receives the most strandings of anywhere in the US.

Old Harbor U.S. Life Saving Station in Cape Cod

Wikimedia Commons user JCefaly

But the numbers recorded over the weekend were the largest ever in the organization’s history.


Wellfleet Harbor

The difficult terrain extended to Wellfleet Harbor which itself has a hook shape making it a dangerous trap for marine life.

Aerial view of Cape Cod from the ISS


The gently sloping beaches in the area and the fine sediment also caused issues for the dolphins.

Some of the dolphins that survived the stranding returned to the area once the tides were higher.