What to do if you find a stranded marine mammal

Do not closely approach or touch the animal. Your safety and that of the animal are very important. First, carefully assess the scene. Note the following:

  • location (GPS coordinates and/or area name and landmark) and directions to the site,
  • local time,
  • type of animal (dolphin, whale, seal, sea lion, dugong),
  • number of animals, and
  • whether the animal is alive or dead.

If possible, take multiple pictures of the animal from a safe distance. For dead animals, take pictures of the complete animal, head, and both sides (whatever is visible given how the animal is resting on the beach), and any injuries, wounds, or markings you see. Avoid disturbing live animals when taking photographs, but take as many pictures as possible to help with species identification. Also photograph the area around the animal.

Photographs are perhaps the most important information you can collect.

Depending on your location, immediately call the authorities (Coast Guard, Law Enforcement, Police, or Government Officials), local stranding network, veterinary hospital, animal rescue center, or environmental organization.

While waiting for authorities to arrive, try to maintain a perimeter around the animal and keep everyone at least 25 meters away. Explain to curious and interested onlookers that contact with the animal whether alive or dead is dangerous and they should stay back for their safety, and authorities will be arriving soon. The responding organization may give you additional information about what to do until they arrive.


Credit: NOAA


Woods Hole Open Access Server

This link takes you to the Marine Mammal Stranding Response repository on the Woods Hole Open Access Server (WHOAS). You will need to register on that site to download content and training materials that are housed there. This will be a one-time registration process.

Continue to the Woods Hole Open Access Server.