Death toll for trapped dolphins rises to 9; rescuers worried

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GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) – The death toll of dolphins trapped in a shallow cove has risen to nine, and only three weak and hungry members of the group were believed to be alive after a weeklong rescue effort, officials said Friday.

At least two of the dead dolphins had empty stomachs, said Charles T. Hamilton, regional emergency response coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Necropsies were ordered on the nine dead dolphins to determine the exact cause of death; results were expected in a week to 10 days.

About 20 of the “common dolphins” were first seen about 10 days ago in the Northwest Harbor cove, north of East Hampton, attracting spectators and marine biologists who feared for their safety.

The common dolphin in the wild feeds only on live fish, which the cove does not have, said Chuck Bowman, president of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, one of the leaders of the rescue effort.

“Time is not on our side,” Hamilton said.

Ordinarily, the dolphins stay about 30 to 80 miles off shore but may have been chasing some food such as mackerel or squid closer to the coast when they swam into waters that separate the twin forks of eastern Long Island, probably during high tide.

Eight were coaxed out of the shallow cove and swam away earlier this week.

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