A dolphin that washed ashore at Oceano Dunes on Monday died as responders tried to save it.
At about 11 a.m., responders from the Marine Mammal Center's triage center in Morro Bay got a call from State Parks officials regarding a live, 7-foot adult striped dolphin that came ashore at the dunes, said Giancarlo Rulli, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center.
"When they do come ashore, when they're alive, it means they're in pretty bad shape," Rulli said, adding that without buoyancy from the water, the animal's weight begins pressing on its organs.
"Unlike a seal or sea lion that can support itself, a cetacean doesn't have the ability to regulate its body position. It becomes a really life-threatening situation almost immediately when it comes onshore," Rulli said.
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Responders, along with State Parks officials, went into about knee-deep water, holding the dolphin in a tarp to keep it upright as they attempted to return it back to sea. A half-hour into the return, the current picked up and the dolphin swam away on its own, Rulli said.
However, approximately an hour later, the ill-fated dolphin came ashore again. Marine Mammal Center responders returned to the area and gave the animal a sedative to calm it, Rulli said.
"During that process, it passed away," Rulli said.
The dolphin is currently being transported to the Marine Mammal Center's hospital in Sausalito for a necropsy, Rulli said. Officials aren't yet sure of the animal's sex or what led to its death.
Rulli said the most common types of dolphins found stranded along the coastline from Mendocino County to SLO County are harbor porpoises.
"Striped dolphins are relatively uncommon to see," Rulli said. "They're not the first dolphin species that comes to mind that strands across the Central Coast."
If you see a dolphin or another marine mammal that is sick, injured or otherwise in distress, call the Marine Mammal Center's hotline at 415-289-7325.