Animal Rescue Program’s distribution of assembled gear caches to facilities in its coverage area provides quick access for First Responders to assist with marine animals in distress. The generosity of community partners has already proven to streamline first responder arrival in areas with high volume calls to Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program hotline.
These gear caches contain essential supplies and equipment, including large kennels, fencing, signage, measuring tape, safety vests, brochures, and more to store various facilities in their coverage area. When an animal is reported to the Animal Rescue Program hotline, staff contact a volunteer from over 300 first responders to pick up these caches to prepare for their arrival.
Once at the animal’s location, first responders observe the animal to identify species, behavior, and noticeable health issues to staff. Using the gear from the cache, first responders can secure the site, signal the arrival of staff, and educate the public to ensure a safe environment. Staff guide the volunteer on their way to the site.
Animal rescue staff respond to an average of 181 animal reports a year and work tirelessly to ensure animals return to the ocean in proper health. For the animal with health concerns, time is crucial for staff. Traffic and other factors can slow down the team to arrival on site. With the gear cache, first responders can secure the area and direct the public away from the animal providing staff with an optimal situation to respond to the animal.
Partners with gear caches at their facilities include Charlestown, RI Police Department; Block Island First Responders; Save the Bay in Newport and Providence, RI; Bristol Rhode Island Animal Control; Rhode Island DEM Division of Coastal Resources Lab in Wakefield, RI; The Maritime Aquarium; East Haven Animal Control; Fishers Island Conservancy; and Old Saybrook Police Department. Within the first four weeks, the Save the Bay cache was already used for a dolphin stranding. Animal Rescue Program staff are working to expand the number of partners.
The gear caches are funded by the 2020 John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant. Mystic Aquarium is also a 2021 Prescott Grant Recipient. The 2021 Grant will fund additional gear caches to CT and RI state government entities and general response, rescue, and release operations.
First Responders not only volunteer with stranded animals. They secure the locations for washed-up animal carcasses, walk the coast looking for cold-stunned sea turtles, help with public outreach events, and provide additional support at the Animal Rescue Clinic.
Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program is the primary response for marine mammals and sea turtles in need of support along the coastlines of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Fishers Island, New York. People who spot marine mammals or sea turtles in these areas are encouraged to report them to the Animal Rescue Hotline at 860-572-5955 X 10.