DAO 88:143-155 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02146

Mortality trends of stranded marine mammals on Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts, USA, 2000 to 2006

Andrea L. Bogomolni1,2,*, Katie R. Pugliares3,4,*, Sarah M. Sharp3, Kristen Patchett4, Charles T. Harry3, Jane M. LaRocque3, Kathleen M. Touhey3, Michael Moore1,**

1Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
2Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269, USA
3International Fund for Animal Welfare***, 290 Summer Street, Yarmouthport, Massachusetts 02675, USA
4Department of Marine Sciences, University of New England, Biddeford, Maine 04005, USA
*Both authors contributed equally to this paper
**Corresponding author. Email:
***Cape Cod Stranding Network for study period

ABSTRACT: To understand the cause of death of 405 marine mammals stranded on Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts between 2000 and 2006, a system for coding final diagnosis was developed and categorized as (1) disease, (2) human interaction, (3) mass-stranded with no significant findings, (4) single-stranded with no significant findings, (5) rock and/or sand ingestion, (6) predatory attack, (7) failure to thrive or dependent calf or pup, or (8) other. The cause of death for 91 animals could not be determined. For the 314 animals that could be assigned a cause of death, gross and histological pathology results and ancillary testing indicated that disease was the leading cause of mortality in the region, affecting 116/314 (37%) of cases. Human interaction, including harassment, entanglement, and vessel collision, fatally affected 31/314 (10%) of all animals. Human interaction accounted for 13/29 (45%) of all determined gray seal Halichoerus grypus mortalities. Mass strandings were most likely to occur in northeastern Cape Cod Bay; 97/106 (92%) of mass stranded animals necropsied presented with no significant pathological findings. Mass strandings were the leading cause of death in 3 of the 4 small cetacean species: 46/67 (69%) of Atlantic white-sided dolphin Lagenorhynchus acutus, 15/21 (71%) of long-finned pilot whale Globicephala melas, and 33/54 (61%) of short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis. These baseline data are critical for understanding marine mammal population health and mortality trends, which in turn have significant conservation and management implications. They not only afford a better retrospective analysis of strandings, but ultimately have application for improving current and future response to live animal stranding.


KEY WORDS: Disease · Mass strandings · Necropsy · Cetaceans · Pinnipeds


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Cite this article as: Bogomolni AL, Pugliares KR, Sharp SM, Patchett K and others (2010) Mortality trends of stranded marine mammals on Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts, USA, 2000 to 2006. Dis Aquat Org 88:143-155. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02146

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