A dead dolphin has been found in the Shrewsbury River near the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has confirmed.

From a media alert sent out by NOAA spokeswoman Teri Frady this morning:

A dead dolphin was discovered floating near the Route 36 Highlands Bridge in New Jersey during an incoming tide, before 8AM this morning. NJ DOT workers on the bridge sighted the animal and immediately reported the incident to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, NJ. The animal has been preliminarily identified by the stranding center as a common dolphin. Twelve bottlenose dolphins constitute the group currently residing in the Shrewsbury/Navesink estuary. The carcass discovered today has been recovered and NOAA is arranging for species confirmation and a necropsy. No further details at this time.

The Associated Press reports that the dolphin appears to be one of the 12 that remained recently after 16 Atlantic bottlenose took up residence in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers this summer and autumn.

It is also the first to have died since the NOAA, which has jurisdiction over the animals, announced three weeks ago that it would not try to shepherd the pod beneath the bridge, which is the gateway to Sandy Hook Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

There’s no information yet on the age and physical condition of the animal. Two others that died were both juveniles, one of which is believed to have died of pneumonia and was in otherwise good condition; the carcass of the other was decomposed, and no cause of death has been disclosed.

The latest death is likely to increase political heat on NOAA for an intervention to remove the dolphins from inland waters before deep cold weather arrives this winter, with the possibility of icing-over of the rivers.

NOAA scientists have said they believe lower water temperatures will drive out the fish on which the dolphins prey, and that the dolphins are likely to follow. They also maintain that, with an ample food supply, the dolphins have been known to survive in icy inland waters.

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