Dolphins dead after being stranded near Big Island, Pictou County

Carol Dunn
Published on November 17, 2016

Despite his efforts, Robert Lange of Big Island wasn’t able to help this common dolphin, which died on Wednesday after getting stranded in shallow water.

BIG ISLAND, N.S. - Two dolphins found dead on Big Island may have feeding close to shore when the tide dropped, said Andrew Reid of the Marine Animal Response Society.

Big Island resident Robert Lange was returning home from New Glasgow on Wednesday when he saw what he thought was geese in the water.

“Looking through binoculars, I realized it was dolphins and some were coming very close to the Big Island causeway. They were churning up the water as the tide was low, and the dorsal fins were all above the water,” he said.

Lange said a few minutes later a small group of the mammals came along the roadway and one swam the wrong way, beaching itself in shallow water.

“It was thrashing around trying to get back to deeper water,” he said.

By the time he got to the water’s edge, sadly, it was too late.

Lange said he called several Big Island residents who came to the shore to help in case any of the others got into trouble. They watched as the group of 15 to 16 dolphins swam back and forth “as if waiting for their friend to join them again.”

Leaving at dark, Lange returned to the beach Thursday morning just after daylight in case any more of the animals were in distress. He said he found another dolphin dead about one kilometre toward the mouth of Merigomish Harbour on the mudflats where the marsh begins.

“We saw no sign of the rest of the pod, so we can only assume with the incoming tide at dark, they were able to find their way back to the ocean and deep water.”

He believes the dolphins may have been chasing a school of fish, and the very low tide from the super moon caused them to get caught in the shallow water.

Reid looked at photographs of the mammals and said they are common dolphins. “They are considered to be a warmer water species, but are often seen in the waters around the Maritime provinces,” he said.

“There are a number of possibilities as to why these animals may have stranded. They may have been unhealthy, or may have just been feeding close to shore when the tide dropped.”

His group plans to travel to Pictou County on Friday to collect samples and information, hoping that the carcasses don’t wash away before they arrive.

Lange said seeing dolphins in the area is fairly rare, but over the last few years, in two separate instances, a dolphin and a 16-foot minke whale were successfully rescued near the same spot.

“I’m a bird watcher, so I’m always watching. You don't see that kind of stuff around here very often. Once in a while they go astray.”