The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) urges the public to report marine mammal strandings as soon as possible. Anyone observing a stranding, dead or alive, should take a picture of the animal, the time the animal was observed and location (GPS position) of the animal.
The NOAA Southeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network has a mobile phone app to report strandings. To download the app, go to https://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_resources/outreach_and_education/mm_apps/. The public can also report strandings to the NOAA Southeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network Hotline at 1-877-433-8299.
“It is important for the public to notify us about a marine mammal stranding or an out of habitat animal as soon as possible,’’ said LDWF biologist Mandy Tumlin, the Louisiana Marine Mammal Stranding and Rescue Program Coordinator. “We simply cannot be everywhere at all times and the public greatly assists us with these observations and reporting. Each and every stranding is important for obtaining valuable information about these protected animals. The sooner we know about the stranding, the quicker we can gather vital information and obtain more diagnostic samples.’’
To report marine mammal violations, such as people feeding, attempting to feed, or harassing marine mammals in the wild, please contact the national NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or LDWF’s Operation Game Thief at 1-800-442-2511. Information may be left anonymously. It is illegal to harass or interact with marine mammals whether they are dead or alive.
Dos and Don’ts For Encountering Marine Mammals
Do immediately report all dead marine mammals, even if they are decomposed. Call the Southeast Region Stranding Network 24-hour hotline: 1-877-942-5343 to be connected to Louisiana’s marine mammal stranding network. The stranding network will send out trained responders who will get to the scene quickly with appropriate equipment.
Don’t push the animal back out to sea. Stranded marine mammals may be sick or injured. Returning animals to sea delays examination and treatment and often results in the animal re-stranding in worse condition.
If the animal returns to the water on its own, don’t attempt to interact with it (swim with, ride, etc.).
Do put human safety above animal safety. If conditions are dangerous, do not attempt to approach the animal.
Do stay with the animal until rescuers arrive but use caution. Marine mammals can be dangerous and/or carry disease. Keep a safe distance from the head and tail. Also, minimize contact with the animal (use gloves if necessary) and avoid inhaling the animal’s expired air.
If the animal is alive do keep its skin moist and cool by splashing water over its body. Use wet towels to help keep the skin moist and prevent sunburn.
If the animal is alive don’t cover or obstruct the blowhole. Try to keep sand and water away from the blowhole.
Do keep crowds away and noise levels down to avoid causing further stress to the animal.
Do keep dogs/pets away from the live or dead marine mammal.
Don’t feed, attempt to fee, or harass wild dolphins. It is illegal and harmful and is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Do observe wild dolphins from a recommended distance of 50 yards.
Don’t collect any parts (tissues, teeth, bones, or gear, etc.) from dead animals. It is illegal and a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.