Common Dolphin Live Stranding - Update!

26th Jan 2006 Update

The animal invoved in Monday's rescue bid was found dead by Mrs Pauline Delahunt on the 26th January on Magherabeg beach to the north of Brittas Bay. The dolphin was confirmed as the same animal by distinctive scars on its body. We can now confirm that the animal was a male and was a young adult.


It is unfortunate that this rescue attempt did not succeed, however the chances of survival for a lone common dolphin which may not have fed in some time and which had been stranded for an unknown period of time in Brittas Bay were 50:50 at best. Skin samples for DNA analysis were taken, however funding does not currently exist to allow for a full post-mortem of dead cetaceans in Ireland.

Monday's Events

The IWDG received a report from Terry Kavanagh on the 24th Jan. of a live-stranded small cetacean. I attended the scene just after midday.

On arrival at the site access was found to be difficult and I ended up being carried on horseback to the site of the stranding by a couple out exercising their horses!

Mick Kelly keeping dolphin coolI arrived on site to find the local postman, Mick Kelly, in his bare feet in the freezing water attending to a stranded common dolphin.

Initial assessment of the animal was made. The animal was slightly under weight but not excessively so, the breathing rate of 3 breaths per minute was within the parameters of a healthy animal and there were no obvious signs of injury and no signs of froth or blood from the blow-hole. The animal was also free from signs of spasm or other neurological problems. It was therefore decided that the animal was sufficiently healthy to warrant a refloat attempt.

The next step was to get some help down to the site. The Coastguard in Dublin were helpful in getting a local unit down to the site. The Wicklow lifeboat secretary agreed to ask the inshore lifeboat coxwain if he was prepared to help at the scene, Wicklow Sub Aqua club and Brayvet animal hospital were also contacted.

stranded common dolphinAfter about an hour the cavalry began to arrive. Faith Wilson and Katharine Duff (IWDG & Natura Environmental Consultants) arrived on scene along with some locals. John McElhinney and Aileen Thornhill from Wicklow Sub Aqua club arrived bringing dry suits. The Wicklow inshore lifeboat also arrived on scene.

We moved the animal to some deeper water to begin the refloating process. Myself, John, Aileen and Brendan (RNLI) moved the animal into waist deep water using a tarpaulin. Once the dolphin began to swim we followed it in the lifeboat and guided it away from shore. We followed the animal for over an hour.

Members of Wicklow SAC supporting dolphin in waterThe animal's breathing rate was still normal, it was breathing well at the surface but its swimming was slow. Over the VHF radio we consulted with vet Ellen Hegarty form BrayVet Animal Hospital. Ellen also sought advice from marine mammal vet James Barnett in the UK.

As night drew down we were left with two choices. The first was to return the dolphin to shore for a full assessment or give it its chance at sea. Ellen and I agreed that returning it to shore would not provide much new information as there was little extra veterinary information we could gather. Considering that the animal was breathing well at the service and swimming (albeit slowly) we judged it's best chance was to leave it at sea. By the time we left the dolphin it was almost a mile from the point at which it stranded and well away from shore.

IWDG, Wicklow SAC & Lifeboat Personnel beginning the refloatA message was sent around local members to keep an eye ou