NEW ORLEANS (press release) – On Sept. 29 and 30, Audubon Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN) and their partners in the Southeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network rescued and released back to the Gulf of Mexico, three dolphins that were trapped in a drainage canal system in Grand Chenier, LA. A mother, her calf and an additional female dolphin were presumed to have been out-of-habitat due to storm surge and coastal flooding from Hurricane Laura.

Due to the challenging conditions of the deep and complex canal system, a large-scale effort was required spanning multiple days. The rescue team was coordinated by NOAA Fisheries and included SeaWorld Orlando and San Antonio, the National Marine Mammal Foundation, L.H. Fenstermaker, and NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.

Prior to release, the mom and single female were both satellite-tagged to monitor the dolphins post-rescue. The Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, funded by the NOAA John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, provided the tags and will track the trio remotely for the next several weeks to months, which will provide valuable data on the success of the rescue, where these individual dolphins range, and a better understanding of overall dolphin movements in Louisiana.

Audubon and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network have successfully rescued, transported, and released a total of 4 bottlenose dolphins in September that were presumed to be trapped from Hurricane Laura. It is not uncommon for the storm surge and increased coastal flooding associated with hurricanes to cause marine mammals to strand on land or be washed into inland waterways where they are not typically observed, including lakes and canals. Animals may persist in these areas for weeks to months following the hurricane, requiring rescue by trained and authorized responders to return them to their natural habitat.

Harlamert added, “These rescues were made possible due to the public reporting these strandings to CWN. We want to remind the public to report all stranded or out-of-habitat marine mammals and sea turtles (live or dead) to CWN at (504) 235-3005.”

When reporting strandings, the public should be prepared to give:

  • Exact location and/or GPS coordinates
  • Photographs of the animal
  • Nature of the report (type of animal/live or dead/size, etc.)

If you report a live stranded animal please:

  • Put human safety above animal safety. If conditions are dangerous, do not attempt to approach the animal.
  • Keep crowds away and noise levels down to avoid causing stress to the animal
  • Don’t push an animal on shore back into the water
  • If the animal returns to the water on its own, don’t attempt to interact with it
  • Leave all entanglements that may be present on the animal

Coordinated by Audubon Nature Institute, CWN serves as NOAA Fisheries’ primary Marine Mammal Stranding Network partner in Louisiana for responding to and rehabilitating marine mammals (dolphins, whales).

CWN is committed to the humane care and treatment of injured, ill, or displaced marine animals in Louisiana, and is the only entity in the state responsible for the rehabilitation of live marine mammals and sea turtles. The information CWN collects from stranded animals provides a snapshot into the health of the marine environment and provides a better understanding of threats to marine mammals and sea turtles in the wild.

The public can support Audubon’s continued work to protect and preserve the natural world by contributing to the Audubon Recovery Fund, or visiting Audubon Zoo and Audubon Aquarium.