Turtles, seabirds and whales in So.Carolina – 07/13/2005

  • October 30, 2013 at 1:41 am #830

    Wildlife biologists investigate turtle, seabird, whale deaths
    Strand incidents unrelated to red tide
    By Kelly Marshall
    The Sun News


    The deaths of a female pygmy sperm whale, several seabirds and
    loggerhead turtles found in Horry and Georgetown counties in the past
    several weeks have not been linked to red tide, an algaelike bloom
    that is spreading down the coast.

    At least two greater shearwaters, a species dying in large numbers
    along the Atlantic Coast, were found at Myrtle Beach State Park,
    interpretive ranger Ann Wilson said.

    About 19 loggerhead turtles, a Wilson’s storm-petrel and at least one
    pygmy sperm whale have been found in different locations along the
    Grand Strand, according to park rangers.

    Wildlife biologists have not determined the exact cause of death for
    the whale and cannot say what is causing the turtles or birds to
    become ill.

    Some of the turtles have been sent to the S.C. Aquarium in Charleston
    for rehabilitation.

    Tests still are being done on the seabirds and the pygmy sperm whale
    to determine an exact cause of death.

    “You have to look at trends over the years to see if you have a large
    amount [of strandings] for this year,” said Wayne McFee, a marine
    biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s
    National Ocean Service. “We didn’t have any large numbers of mammals
    to wash up. We’ve had kind of a quiet year.”

    The whale found at Sand Island recently had given birth, McFee said.
    She was about 11 feet long and was alive when found. The calf was not

    The whale had an empty stomach and was covered in parasites, he said.
    She might have become ill and been swept in by the tide, McFee said.

    Wildlife biologists in several areas still are studying what killed a
    large number of seabirds this year. Since June 12, more than 500 dead
    seabirds have been reported from Maryland to Florida.

    Wildlife pathologists did not find any signs that the birds were
    poisoned, said John Gallegos, a wildlife biologist with the Back Bay
    National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach, Va.

    Some of the birds appeared malnourished, he said.

    “We have gotten e-mails from fishermen saying the shearwaters are
    coming unusually close to the boats and trying to get to bait in the
    containers,” he said. “That could be a sign that there is a food

    Reports of dead shearwaters have come from the Outer Banks of North
    Carolina, as well as Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island.

    Almost 200 birds have washed up in South Carolina, said Diane Duncan,
    an ecologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Charleston.

    Tests on two of the birds ruled out toxins found in red tide, Duncan

    Despite some turtle strandings, turtle watchers have been encouraged
    by nesting activity on local beaches.

    Two new nests were found at 26th Avenue South in Myrtle Beach early
    Tuesday morning, Wilson said. The nests were moved to Myrtle Beach
    State Park to protect the eggs, Wilson said.

    “In 11 years, we have had only one other time when there were two
    nests laid [close together],” Wilson said.

    More than 32 nests have been found in Horry and Georgetown counties
    this year.

    Last year, which was considered to be the worst on record, 40 nests
    were found from North Inlet to the N.C.-S.C. border.

    “We’re doing better than last year,” Wilson said. “Last year, we
    broke the record in a negative way.”

    Turtle nesting season started in June and will continue through early

    The Associated Press contributed to this report

The forum ‘Strange Animal Deaths’ is closed to new topics and replies.