By BROCK VERGAKIS
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) -- Federal officials say an unusually high number of bottlenose dolphins are dying off the East Coast this summer, the deadliest period for the sea mammals since a virus killed off more than 700 in the late 1980s.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said Thursday that researchers are investigating what may have killed the 124 dolphins found stranded in coastal areas in the Mid-Atlantic region since July.
The discoveries have led the federal agency to declare an unusual mortality event for bottlenose dolphins. The declaration means scientists will have access to additional research funding. That investigation and analysis by teams of national and international experts could take months or even years to finalize, and officials say there is likely little they can do to stop the deaths unless the root cause is ultimately blamed on humans.