Almost four-dozen bottle-nosed dolphins have now been reported dead along the Gulf Coast in the last 10 days. That latest figure came in Wednesday afternoon after six more carcasses were spotted along St. Joe Bay.
The recent death toll remains a mystery. As the dolphin death toll continues to rise, park rangers have spent the last week and a half reeling them in one by one to begin their autopsy.
It's puzzling even the most knowledgeable oceanographers. Dead dolphins keep washing up along the shore of St. Joe Bay, some near houses, others on public beaches.
“We went yesterday to Panama City and noticed dead porpoise on shore,” said Jack Hammond, a tourist.
“We saw them on Mexico beach washed up on shore,” added Gail Becker, also a tourist.
Washed up then dragged in, almost 50 dead dolphins in less than 10 days and the number continues to rise. Biologists say preliminary samples show the dolphins died at the same time by the same natural toxin. One possibility is red tide.
Still, park officials are taking precautions, telling visitors it's ok to fish, but don't eat your catch. Even with the recent spottings along the bay, many visitors say it's not enough to scare them or to cut their vacation short.
The National Marine Fisheries Service is overseeing testing of the carcasses at a lab in St. Petersburg. No word yet on any test results, but we will keep you posted.