A marine animal advocacy group has dialed up its calls for a forced removal of the visiting dolphin pod from the Navesink River following the death of a young female this week.

Meanwhile, redbankgreen has gotten an unconfirmed report that some of the pod has moved back into the Shrewsbury River, which feeds into Sandy Hook Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Bob Calandriello, assistant manager of Rumson’s Oceanic Marina, located opposite the area of the Navesink where the pod has spent the past ten weeks feeding, says a group of the mammals went downriver into the Shrewsbury last week and resumed its pattern of swimming north and south between two bridges — one linking Rumson and Sea Bright and the other linking Sea Bright with Highlands.

Calandriello says he saw the dolphins himself opposite McLoone’s Rum Runner, the Sea Bright restaurant whose parking lot became a popular dolphin-watching spot for three weeks early in the summer before the dolphins took up residence about three miles west on the western side of the Oceanic Bridge, which links Middletown and Rumson.

At least a handful of the dolphins remained in the Navesink yesterday afternoon; the photo above shows three, as seen from the Oceanic Bridge looking toward Rumson.

Despite the death of one dolphin, Calandriello says the others appear healthy and strong.

“The day before yesterday (Tuesday), they were leaping out of the water,” he says. “It was like Sea World.

“There certainly doesn’t appear to be any problem with them whatsoever.”

Coverage in today’s Asbury Park Press and Star-Ledger focuses on assertions by Bob Schoelkopf of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine that the year-old female found dead in Fair Haven on Wednesday was one he identified to federal wildlife officials in early July as having had a cough.

Officials have confirmed the animal had pneumonia but haven’t yet determined if that’s what caused its death, the Sledger reports.

Schoelkopf has been pressing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has jurisdiction over the dolphins, to drive the dolphins toward the ocean.

Insisting the animals won’t be able to find their way out of the river, Schoelkopf wants the dolphins netted or lured to the ocean before the weather turns cold.

NOAA, which has overseen two previous attempts to move dolphins from the river that ended in their deaths, wants to give the animals more time to find their way out to sea.

“With luck, they’ll follow their prey out when the prey go out,” said NOAA spokeswoman Teri Frady.

But Schoelkopf said the animals follow an “internal biological compass” that sends them south when the water turns cold. South in the Navesink River is a dead end. The animals have to travel north through the Shrewsbury River, into Sandy Hook Bay and round the tip of Sandy Hook before turning south in the ocean.

The Press has this:

Schoelkopf said: “We can’t wait until the end of October.”

But NOAA officials still think intervention poses “a high degree of risk that the animals are going to be injured or stranded,” resulting in dead dolphins, Frady said.

The two options for intervention are some form of herding dolphins out of the river into the sea or trying to capture them, she said.

A complicating factor is “just the number of them,” she said. “Should they start to strand, there’s just no way we’re going to save them all.”

The Press also reports that Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J. has reiterated a request he first made in July to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to develop a plan “in the next few days to safely evacuate these dolphins from the rivers to their natural habitat in the Atlantic Ocean.”

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