Fewer incidents of beached mammals in NJ this season
The number of mammal rescues along Jersey Shore beaches is down this year, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.
"Last year we had 168 animals and this year we're up to 63 right now," said Director Bob Schoelkopf.
The center currently is caring for a sea turtle picked up in Monmouth County with a small prop cut to its head, according to Schoelkopf. Last week, he said, a whale was struck and killed by a cargo ship in Newark Bay and had to be towed out to sea by the Army Corps of Engineers for disposal.
"Unfortunately when a big freighter hits a 30 foot whale, it's not going to make it because it just shatters its vertebrae as soon as it's hit," Schoelkopf said.
On a positive note, Schoelkopf said, "We've had reports of large numbers of dolphins in the Cape May area, but very little stranding activity, so we're always happy when we have that case scenario."
There have been several reports of dolphin and whale sightings up and down the Jersey coast this season, and Schoelkopf chalked up the mild rescue activity to the animals being in "a healthier state."
Humpback whales are opportunistic feeders, and Schoelkopf said they'll go where the food is.
"If we have a large food supply of bunker, or menhaden, or bluefish, whatever they feel like feeding on in groups, they'll go in close to shore for them, and that's what they're doing," Schoelkopf said. "Not that they don't like the Jersey beach line, but they actually prefer the food that's in the water than the beaches."
Occasionally, manatees even make their way to New Jersey.
"That's a new trend for them. They're moving further north to explore new territory, so it wouldn't be surprising if someone sees a manatee and thinks it's a big walrus or something," Schoelkopf said.
It's the responsibility of the municipality where an animal is beached or washes up to dispose of it, according to Schoelkopf.
"We will assist them if we have to in cutting the animal up and then doing the necropsy to collect what samples we can," Schoelkopf said.
If you do see a stranded mammal, don't touch it, and contact the local police department, cautioned Schoelkopf.
"Most police departments know to give us a call," Schoelkopf said.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center's 24-hour hotline is at 609-266-0538.