“We want to make sure we’re giving these animals the best possible chance.”

International Fund for Animal Welfare

With around seven hours of work and more than 40 dedicated volunteers, staff and experts, seven stranded dolphins were rescued from the River Herring in Wellfleet earlier this week.

The animals were first spotted around 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. Initially, photos suggested there were at least three beached dolphins. But, it was later determined that there were seven spread throughout the river’s digestive tract, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

After receiving a report of the stranded animals, local IFAW experts mobilized a large team to rescue the stranded Atlantic white-sided dolphins.

The animals arrived at around six to eight feet long, weighing, at most, around 250 pounds.

“It’s kind of a mad rush to figure out what’s going on while trying to get our staff in,” animal rescue worker and stranding biologist Olivia Guerra told Boston.com. “It’s kind of a wake up and go.”

As volunteers and staff gathered in the gut of the River Herring, they dispersed and began working with each dolphin. IFAW decided to relocate the animals instead of simply refloating them. Rescuers therefore had to lift the large animals onto specialized stretchers.

“They look almost like tarps but with holes for their pectoral fins and they have really nice handles on either side so we can line ourselves up depending on the size of the animal and the size of the stretcher, six to 15 people,” Guerra said. “It helps to support the animal safely and as comfortably as possible for them. These animals are so stocky and so strong, and they are so heavy that without those without stretchers, we couldn’t do anything with them.

Overall, the dolphins appeared alert and healthy, according to IFAW.

Responders removed the animals and transported them to transport vehicles.

“We have our mobile dolphin rescue clinic which is our primary response vehicle for stranded dolphins,” Guerra said. “But these Atlantic white-sided dolphins are generally larger than the usual species we see, so all seven couldn’t fit in this vehicle. We have a secondary trailer that we will use to help us transport them all in same time, so we don’t have to go back and forth to the stranding site.

The whole operation took place in a race against time. Lifeguards were at the mercy of the tides, which can make the job much more difficult.

IFAW experts provided care to the animals to help them deal with the shock of the stranding, including injections of vitamin E with selenium, Guerra said. The team also used cooling blankets to help maintain a healthy body temperature, according to IFAW.

Eventually the animals were all loaded into the transport vehicles and en route to where they would be released – Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown.

One of the dolphins was fitted with a satellite tracking beacon, so IFAW has a general idea of ​​the capsule’s movement and, according to the statement, the animal welfare agency is optimistic about the dolphin’s journey. coming.

Guerra said the decision was made to release the dolphins in a different location because the area where they got stranded at Wellfleet is a “difficult area” to navigate due to its shape.

“If they’re already stuck, it’s really difficult for them to reorient and get out of that area,” Guerra said. “We want to make sure we’re giving these animals the best possible chance.”

Cape Cod Bay is a hook, but Wellfleet is “a hook within a hook,” Guerra said. The geography combined with a rapidly changing tide creates the perfect storm to beach marine animals.

“Cape Cod is a global hotspot for strandings, and it’s been going on for hundreds of years,” Guerra said. “Over time the species of animals have changed or shifted based on, I guess, changes in prey and things like that.”

IFAW has had several responses over the past month to situations like this, with a variety of species, Guerra said. Wednesday’s rescue was an all-out operation, with contributions from IFAW staff, interns, volunteers and AmeriCorps members.

The National Park Service also helped with crowd management and logistics, according to IFAW.

“We really couldn’t have done it without all [the rescuers]”, Guerra said. “We had about 40 responders. It’s a huge team effort, and it takes a whole village and it was wonderful to be able to have people there to give us a hand. .

If people see a marine mammal, dead or alive, on a Cape Cod beach, they can call IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue at 508-743-9548, Guerra said. If they are anywhere other than Cape Town, she recommended seeking out the local stranding response team.