Dolphin deaths increase to 160 in Virginia

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WJLA) -- 160 dolphins have washed up on beaches in Virginia since last month. And this past weekend was the worst yet: 26 dolphins washed up and only two were alive.

The Clark family came to Virginia Beach from Iowa to see the dolphins. And it was quite the surprise for this family to discover a disturbing fact – the dolphin death count in August has now passed 70, a number that is higher than the annual average.

"25 dolphins in one weekend is something we can't handle, and if it continues at this rate, we are going to have to ask for more outside help," says Virginia Aquarium researcher, Susan Barco.

The Virginia Aquarium stranding team has reached a breaking point. Freezers are so full of dead dolphins that there is a line outside the tent where the necropsies are performed.

Veterinarians have been taking samples, but they haven’t figured out what is causing mostly male dolphins to die, though they do see some similarities:

"We're seeing lesions in their respiratory systems," explains Barco. "We're seeing animals with joint problems. We're not seeing animals feeding normally; a lot of them are thin."

Scientists are investigating a range of possible causes, from possible pollution to the return of a virus that killed more than 700 dolphins back in 1987.

It’s a mystery scientists hope to solve before the problem becomes even worse. They warn those who find a stranded dolphin to stay away from it and contact authorities.