N.J. officials prepare to shoo dolphins from river respite
SEA BRIGHT, N.J. - The latest visitors to the New Jersey shore are doing what many tourists do: splashing around in the waves with children and eating seafood.
But they are also getting hassled by the locals, and for that reason, the group of a dozen or so bottlenose dolphins has to go.
Between 12 and 14 dolphins - including at least three calves - have been frolicking in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers for the past two weeks, the likely result of a wrong turn inland following schools of bait fish.
The dolphins have been drawing crowds along the banks of both rivers, not to mention a flotilla of boats and kayaks.
Wildlife officials and volunteers worry that the dolphins could be injured or killed by heavy boat traffic in the narrow waterways, particularly with July Fourth approaching. They're working on a plan to coax the dolphins out to the open waters of Sandy Hook Bay and then the ocean.
"As beautiful as it is to see them, they don't belong here," said Dan Montano of Long Branch, who took his boat out to see the dolphins Tuesday. "It gets crazy here on weekends; the whole area is inundated with boats. I just hope they can get out."
Thunderstorms forecast for Monmouth County last night and today could scare the dolphins out of the river, said Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.
The group is leading efforts to get the dolphins out of the rivers.
If the storm doesn't chase the dolphins away, a team of about 40 animal rescue and environmental officials from as far away as North Carolina and Massachusetts will try to shoo them out next week.
"The problem is, it's a deep river, and they might just dive and go right under the boats," Schoelkopf said.
He said the dolphins have not been observed feeding much.
In 1993, authorities tried to remove dolphins that had spent the summer and fall in the river. When the river froze, an attempt to shoo the animals out to sea chased them under the ice, where several drowned.