A marine mammal stranding is stressful not just for the animals, but for rescuers, too.

To minimize the effects on all involved, experts on whale and dolphin strandings will host a classroom training session Oct. 7 for 30 volunteers at Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island.

The location for the training is the former Coastal Studies Lab, which is in the process of changing to the UTRGV School of Earth, Environmental and Marine Sciences.

“One year we had three of them, that was a couple years ago,” said Tony Reisinger, Texas AgriLife’s extension agent for coastal and marine resources with Texas Sea Grant. “And then you might go a couple years and not have one — it’s not predictable at all.”

Strandings of whales and dolphins, which can weigh hundreds or even thousands of pounds, require a quick response from rescuers, he said Wednesday.

A typical stranding event could involve several dozen responders.

“On average, maybe about 30 people because it’s around-the-clock, and you have to take care of one if it can’t swim by itself,” Reisinger said. “They have to get into wetsuits and walk it around the tanks.

“It’s one of the most strenuous responses I’ve ever been through,” he added. “A lot of people stay up all hours taking care of them and feeding them, and it requires vets from the zoo.”

Heidi Whitehead, state coordinator of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, will teach handling procedures that comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act and lecture on species that strand on Texas beaches and bays.

By RICK KELLEY Staff Writer