A common dolphin washed up on the shore of Shinnecock Bay in Hampton Bays on Tuesday morning, taking its last breaths a few moments after hitting the sand at the end of Nautilius Drive.The juvenile, female dolphin had been spotted a day earlier in the ocean between the inlet and Ponquogue Beach with reports being made to the Riverhead Foundation, a nonprofit rescue group, that beachgoers were attempting to swim with it, according to Kim Durham, the Riverhead Foundation's rescue program director.
The foundation dispatched researchers, who were unable to locate the dolphin on Wednesday evening, but returned on Thursday morning with a report that it had been found on the shore, just barely alive.
The underweight dolphin was examined by researchers at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research, who believe the dolphin died of disease because it appeared that it had not eaten in sometime.
However, Durham said the foundation will be conducting an extensive examination and following protocol that has been established this year after hundreds of dolphins started washing up across the Eastern seaboard.
This year, over 300 dolphins, mostly bottlenose dolphins, have washed up along the East Coast with a number of them found dead on the East End of Long Island, including a 8-and-a-half foot long, 407 pound dolphin that was found on Sagaponack beach. Other dolphins were found in Western Long Island, in Long Beach and Fire Island.
According to a report on the DailyNews.com, officials believe a virus similar to measles for humans is causing the die off, which the Riverhead Foundation is also researching.
Durham said that same same virus may have caused the recent dolphin death in Hampton Bays.
Because the dolphins are dying of disease, Durham is urging anyone who spots a dolphin near the shore to call the foundation and not attempt to swim with it.
"You should keep your distance, there could be a secondary infection that could cause a hazard. Do not swim with them," she said.
To report a dolphin or other injured marine mammal or sea turtle, call 631-369-9829.