Beached marine-mammal training offered at South Padre Island

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – Training is available for volunteers interested in assisting experts who respond to stranded marine mammals along the South Texas Gulf coast, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

Dr Tom deMaar, senior veterinarian at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, checks vital signs on a stranded melon-headed whale as Coastal Naturalists assist. deMaar will speak at the June 8 training for stranded marine-mammal rescues. (AgriLife Extension photo by Tony Reisinger)

Dr Tom deMaar, senior veterinarian at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, checks vital signs on a stranded melon-headed whale as Coastal Naturalists assist. Dr. deMaar will speak at the June 8 training for stranded marine-mammal rescues. (AgriLife Extension photo by Tony Reisinger)

The training will be offered from 9 a.m.-noon June 8 at the University of Texas Pan American Coastal Studies Lab, 100 Marine Lab Drive, Isla Blanca Park, South Padre Island, according to Tony Reisinger, an AgriLife Extension agent for coastal and marine resources in Cameron County. Cost of the training is $15.

“Only trained personnel should handle stranded marine mammals,” Reisinger said. “That’s because handling such animals poses health risks to both the stranded animal and the humans handling them, and unless a person is trained, it could be a violation of federal law.”

The training is a critical part of the Texas Coastal Naturalist program and is one of three required trainings for certification as a Coastal Naturalist, Reisinger said.

“The certification can include training in harmful algal blooms, sea turtle response, oil spill cleanup assistance and educational programs such as beach and wetland ecology,” he said. “There are more than 100 Texas Coastal Naturalists in South Texas, but not all are trained in marine-mammal stranding response.”

The most recent stranding in the South Padre Island area occurred in February when a melon-headed whale washed ashore, Reisinger said. Other marine animals that have come ashore here include dolphin, sperm whales, pygmy sperm whales and beaked whales.

Speakers at the training include Heidi Whitehead, executive director of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network; Brigette Goza, senior program coordinator at the Coastal Studies Lab; Dr. Tom deMaar, senior veterinarian at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville; and Reisinger.

“This training will provide information on everything from the initial response to a stranded marine mammal to their transport, rehabilitation and re-release,” Reisinger said. “Dr. deMaar will provide some very interesting information on the triage, ethics and logistics of these rescue efforts. The bottom line is we have to be prepared for the next stranding, whenever that might be.”

The training is sponsored by AgriLife Extension, Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University and the Coastal Studies Lab and Cameron County.

To register, call the Coastal Studies Lab at 956-761-2644. Seating is limited.

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