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Federal Officials Probe High Dolphin Death Rate

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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Federal officials are investigating what's causing an unusually high number of dolphin strandings on the East Coast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has declared an unusual mortality event for bottlenose dolphins in the Mid-Atlantic region. More than 120 dolphins have died off five states since July. That's seven times the historic average.

The strandings occurred in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

Virginia has experienced the largest increase in dolphin strandings this year, with more than 45 strandings occurring in July. That's compared with a historic average of seven.

NOAA says dolphins of all ages have been affected. Necropsies haven't revealed a unifying pattern, although an infectious pathogen is considered a likely cause.

Don Rush is the News Director at Delmarva Public Media. An award-winning journalist, Don reports major local issues of the day, from sea level rise, to urban development, to the changing demographics of Delmarva.