What causes whale and dolphin strandings along the coast?

It was not a pretty sight for David Mickey and Sue Dayton the fall day they came upon a large dark object on the Ocracoke beach. Walking closer, they identified what they had spotted as a dead bottlenose dolphin.

Disturbed, they called the Marine Mammal Stranding coordinator for North Carolina’s central coast, Vicky Thayer. She came to the island and, with Mickey’s assistance, performed a necropsy on the animal. Mickey and Dayton had just moved to Ocracoke and this was their introduction to the series of dolphin strandings in mid-Atlantic waters last year. Over the next couple months, two more dolphins would be found stranded on the island.

There are many reason why marine mammals beach themselves, Thayer explained. "People want a simple answer, but it’s not that easy,” she said.
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The Bear Lady:  Her life and mysterious death

In the end, the Bear Lady has been returned to the place she had shared for 25 years with her beloved bears.

Kay Grayson, famous for the controversial practice of feeding the black bears that lived in the tangled woods surrounding her trailer, was discovered dead in late January, her remains scattered along a logging road near her rural Tyrrell County home. Her body was cremated, said her niece Susan Clippinger, and her ashes were buried on her property.

“Hopefully,” Clippinger said, “she is where she would want to be.”
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Dare County Animal Shelter:  A recycling center for feral cats?

Dare County Manager Bobby Outten recently received a call asking if there was available county property where a feral cat colony could be moved because a Hatteras Island restaurant wanted it removed from its property.

“I explained that we don't have property that could be used for that,” said Outten. “And I don't know how you could keep them on a piece of property without putting up fencing around and over them.”

The restaurant's dilemma illustrates a growing problem with feral cats on Hatteras Island -- and in all of Dare County.  And it's a problem that has been exacerbated by the county's own animal control program.  
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The Night Sky: Despite the weather, February had its highlights

Venus has been the evening star throughout February. Stepping out on my back porch at dusk and seeing Venus dominating the southwest horizon lets me know it’s probably going to be a good  night for viewing the stars. You know it’s going to be particularly good when Venus is bright enough to cast shadows.  Later, walking out front, I get to see Jupiter in the east glowing like a diamond! 

Once I spot Jupiter, I always look towards the south to locate Orion and then focus on the Orion Nebula. I’ve had  mixed success  viewing it with the naked eye.  But I find it rewarding to see that fuzzy star and tell myself I’ve still got pretty good eyes for an old guy!  (Just so you know, I always check out Mizar and Alcor in the handle of the Big Dipper, too.  I batted a thousand on seeing that pair in February.)  
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Helping Hatteras Island cancer patients is topic of radio show....WITH AUDIO

Judy Banks and Sydnee Slaughter of the Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation, which is in its 15th year of helping island cancer patients pay their medical bills not covered by insurance and the costs of travel for treatment, were the guests on this week's edition of "To the Point" on Radio Hatteras.

Since its inception, the Cancer Foundation has awarded grants for medical care and travel to 128 Hatteras islanders.  The grants have totaled $540,000. Learn more about the foundation, how it helps patients, and how you can help in this interview.
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With love, Aleta:  Remembering Ocracoke's famous mailboat

“We always waited for the mailboat to come in. That was something that we enjoyed, going and seeing the people who were on it, because it carried some passengers and also some freight for the island people and for the stores. We enjoyed doing it just to get away from home and see what we would get that evening in the mailbox,” recalls Della Gaskill, remembering when she was a girl growing up at Ocracoke.

Today Ocracoke’s beloved mailboat, the Aleta, lies at the bottom of the South River in mainland  North Carolina, no doubt providing a fine habitat for fish and other marine life.  She lives on, however, in the memories of those who once peopled her decks as they traveled to and from Ocracoke or gathered on the dock to greet her, collect their mail, and welcome the passengers she carried. She lives on in books that describe her short but memorable history, and now she is the focus of a new exhibit at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village.
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Arctic Seals appearance on North Carolina beaches is a puzzling....WITH VIDEO

A mix of seal species is appearing on North Carolina beaches with more and more frequency, but no one knows why. Could it be a consequence of a changing climate? One Duke University scientist is determined to find out.
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Island Living: Why I hate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has always been one of my least favorite holidays, where I would traditionally watch as all of my excited colleagues got flowers delivered to their desks, while I jealously looked on in my intentionally all-black work outfit. After work, I’d drink beer while fishing or bowling with other single friends -- which is literally the most un-Valentine's thing you can do -- or head home and watch a documentary, horror movie, or "Deadliest Catch" marathon.

Once I was finally attached, I still wasn’t that big a Valentine’s Day fan, because there’s this unspoken and universal assumption that, as a woman, you’re supposed to make yourself look sexy -- or at least presentable -- and go cook something awesome for your loved one. I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely horrible at both of these things.

But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if my distaste of the holiday is somewhat misplaced, especially on Hatteras Island where the environmental conditions for ogling, flirting, and even love are arguably at their best.
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The Night Sky: Winter stargazing on the islands

Welcome to the Island Free Press' newest column that will inform readers about the night sky on Hatteras and Ocracoke. Our new columnist is Gerry Lebing, a serious stargazer who even built a small observatory next to his house in Waves.  We enjoy the darkest night skies on the East Coast in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  Let's enjoy them!  
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GeeGee Rosell talks about new community reading program in radio interview...WITH AUDIO

GeeGee Rosell, owner of Buxton Village Books, was the guest on the on the Radio Hatteras interview show, "To the Point," on Sunday, Feb. 1. In the interview, Rossell talks about the new community reading program that she is sponsoring with Radio Hatteras.  The program is called "Hatteras Island Reads." 
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The plasticized ocean threatens marine environment

Off the coast of North Carolina lies what is known as the North Atlantic Gyre. It’s a large system of rotating ocean currents, often driven by strong winds, that’s centered near Bermuda. It includes the Sargasso Sea and the Gulf Stream. Within its center, drawn in by the currents, lies what Lisa Rider, coordinator of the N.C. Marine Debris Symposium, describes as a plastic soup. This floating mass of plastic is not the only area of North Carolina waters that is awash with plastic pollution, however. The waters in our sounds and rivers are also filled with plastic debris, she said.

The plastic pollution is a huge and ever-increasing problem threatening North Carolina’s marine environment.  
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