Florida Red Tide: Nine Bottlenose Dolphins And A 26-foot Whale Shark Found Dead

The red tide is still wreaking havoc on Florida wildlife. The latest victims are nine bottlenose dolphins and a 26-foot whale shark that have been found dead since Tuesday.

Some of the animals washed up on beaches mostly decomposed. Others were found floating in the water. The whale shark looked fresh, washed up on the shore of Sanibel Island, recently deceased. All were found in northwest Florida. Wildlife officials are currently in different stages of evaluating the carcasses for cause-of-death, though red tide is a strongly suspected culprit.

WFLA News Channel 8 reported that the dolphins were all found in Sarasota County, a 725 square-mile area known to have white sandy beaches. These recent deaths represent just a small chunk of the damage that the red tide has inflicted on the state since the start of the season in October.

The toxic algae bloom, composed of microscopic plantlike organisms, is known as red tide for the common rust-red color. This latest bloom now stretches about 100 miles along the coast and miles offshore. National Geographic reported that the algae bloom is the worst in more than a decade.

The bloom gives off toxins that cause both gastrointestinal and neurological issues when eaten. Animals can accidentally ingest the algae while feeding, which could have been what happened to the dolphins and the whale shark, just a few of the thousands of animals that have succumbed to the red tide.

Shores along the state’s coasts have seen lifeless sea turtles and piles of dead fish line the once pristine beaches. Now, some beachgoers have reported the pungent smell of rotting wildlife is too unpleasant for them to stick around.

“It's just like a ghost town,” Heather Barron, head veterinarian at Florida’s Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), told National Geographic.

“Anything that can leave has, and anything that couldn't leave has died," she said. 

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