Fall 09 Wildlife In and Around the Sound

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are probably the most recognized species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) in the world, found worldwide in tropical to cold-temperate waters. Bottlenose dolphins, which are known to live more than 50 years, can grow six to 12 feet in length. Their coloration varies from blue-gray to brown with white to cream colored sides and belly. There are two distinct types of bottlenose dolphins: coastal and offshore. The coastal group, which is the type of dolphin sighted in the Sound in June, is generally shorter and slimmer than the offshore group. The coastal dolphins are often found in shallow, warm inshore waters of bays and rivers. The offshore dolphins are found in deep offshore waters of shelf edges and slopes and are often much larger and robust in body form. Coastal dolphins feed on a variety of fish and invertebrates while the offshore dolphins feed mainly on squid and small fish.

Historic sightings of dolphins and porpoises within the Long Island Sound can be dated back to pre-World War II times when pods of dolphins were a familiar sight to mariners and residents along the north shore of Long Island. Over the last few decades these sightings have become less frequent. Reports of cetaceans have been reduced to isolated individuals often compromised or stranded along the shoreline. The re-emergence of these marine mammals to the waters along the north shore of Long Island was highlighted this summer by the arrival of approximately 200 bottlenose dolphins to the waters of Cold Spring, Huntington, Northport, Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Smithtown and Rye, NY. Although the visit was short-lived, lasting less than a week, their presence captured the attention of many and brought to the forefront the beauty and challenges faced by Long Island Sound.

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