Porpoise Outsmarts Rescuers at Jersey Shore

Marine mammal experts tried to capture a young harbor porpoise at the Jersey Shore Wednesday, but the creature wasn’t having any of it.

For the past eight days, the animal has frolicked mere feet from waterfront homes in the lagoons of Little Egg Harbor Township, Ocean County.

“I think it’s amazing. It’s different,” said Michelle Barrett, who lives in the neighborhood.

Experts said it is unusual to see a porpoise by itself so close to the shore. “Normally they travel in family groups,” said Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. “They’re open-ocean animals. They travel along the coast but they very seldom go inland like this,” he said. Schoelkopf was aboard boats in the lagoons with colleagues from the Stranding Center and other experts.

They used nets in an attempt to corral and catch the porpoise in order to make sure it was healthy. The animal may have wandered into the back bay following fish to feed on, Schoelkopf said.

“We were just concerned about the food sources it had and whether it had enough or not,” said Dr. Hubert Paluch of the Cape May County Zoo.

However, the porpoise kept avoiding the nets with skill and speed. After more than three hours, the rescue was called off. It’s hoped the creature will return to the ocean on its own.

“We tried to force him from 13 feet into 3 feet and he knew the difference and he wouldn’t go, which is a good sign,” Schoelkopf said. “The animal is quite robust, we think he can feed on his own, he doesn’t need help from humans.”

“If he was very sick or ill, we might have been able to grab him real easily so it’s a good sign that he’s so healthy,” added Paluch. 

Experts have asked residents to keep an eye on the porpoise and to call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center at 609-266-0538 with updates on its whereabouts.

Schoelkopf also urged people not to feed the animal, which he said is a violation of federal law.

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