A dolphin that grabbed the attention of onlookers in Ocean City, N.J. since the middle of last week, died Sunday.
Ocean City Police say the dolphin was found dead Sunday afternoon in the back-bay lagoon where residents in nearby homes had first spotted it a few days earlier.
The common dolphin began surfacing in the waterway on Wednesday.
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“It’s a very unusual occurrence to have a dolphin in our lagoon. We’ve never seen it in the 10 years we’ve been here,” homeowner Fred Hoffman told NBC10 News.
Experts from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine were keeping track of the animal. Why it came to the lagoon was a mystery, but one possibility was that it was sick, according to MMSC director Bob Schoelkopf.
Unlike bottlenose dolphins typically seen along the Jersey shore in the summer, common dolphins are normally found in large groups in deeper ocean water, 20 to 30 miles off the coast.
Researchers want to know if there's a connection between the dolphin in Ocean City and close to 150 common dolphins that have become stranded on Cape Cod, Mass. in recent weeks. Scientists don’t know why the mammals have been beaching themselves. Rescuers were able save dozens of the Massachusetts dolphins and return them to the ocean.
“That’s one of the things we’re looking at with [the Ocean City] animal, if it has any tags or identifying marks that might be part of that Cape Cod group,” Schoelkopf said.
An exact cause of death wasn't immediately known.