One phone number to help injured wildlife

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - An organization dedicated to rescuing injured dolphins and whales is using its hotline to save the lives of other types of wildlife.

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies hosted a stranding response workshop on Wednesday. I.M.M.S. has long tried hard to promote 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN as the number to call if people come across a stranded dolphin. Now, officials says it's the number to remember no matter what kind of animal people see in trouble.

Back in November, rescuers were able to transport a dolphin from a remote beach near Gulf Shores to Gulfport for treatment. Rescuers say getting a stranded animal quickly is important even if it has died.

"The amount of time and the efficiency that we can respond will basically depict how many samples we can get," said Shea Eaves, an assistant researcher. "The more information we can gather from that animal, the better off we are in learning why exactly that animal died or if there is something going on in the environment that we need to be aware of."

I.M.M.S. wants more awareness on the dos and don'ts of stranded dolphins and whales, and is helping connect organizations that deal with rescuing other types of injured animals.

"Let everybody know that we're all out here," said Alison Sharpe of the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center. "We're all working together as a team. When things come up, one organization may not be able to get to a site. They may call you and say, 'Can you go deal with this?' So it's a network."

From that network came the idea of promoting the IMMS phone number as a one stop shop.

Eaves said, "If our stranding hotline number is the only number you can remember, please give us a call and give us the information. We will absolutely relay it onto the proper authorities, so they can respond."

Roy Lipscomb of the Department of Marine Resources specializes in reptiles.

"A lot of times before we wouldn't find until two or three days later, let's say for example, a stranded sea turtle," Lipscomb said. "Now somebody will call one number and within an hour."

Officials say if you find a stranded dolphin or whale, don't push it back in the water. In fact, don't touch it. They say these animals are not used to being around people and may hurt you.

The number to call if you find a stranded or injured wild animal is 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN. Please leave a contact number, if you get a recording.

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