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Originally published May 11, 2010 at 8:26 PM | Page modified May 12, 2010 at 8:03 AM

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Dead dolphins found on Gulf Coast; oil role unclear

Federal wildlife officials are treating the deaths of six dolphins on the Gulf Coast as oil-related, though other factors may be to blame.

HORN ISLAND, Miss. — Federal wildlife officials are treating the deaths of six dolphins on the Gulf Coast as oil-related, though other factors may be to blame.

Blair Mase of the National Marine Fisheries Service said Tuesday the carcasses have all been found in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama since May 2. Samples have been sent for testing to see whether the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico helped kill the dolphins.

Mase and animal-rescue coordinator Michele Kelley in Louisiana said none of the carcasses has obvious signs of oil. Mase also said it's common for dead dolphins to wash up this time of year when they are in shallow waters to calve.

Two birds rescued and cleaned of oil from the Gulf Coast spill are back in the wild — on the Atlantic Coast. The relocations of the brown pelican and northern gannet are the first of what could be many wildlife relocations.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service veterinarian Sharon Taylor said 10 birds have been found dead from the oil so far. Three others that were found alive remain in rehabilitation.

Coastal residents complain of smell

BILOXI, Miss. — Areas of Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Gulfport in Mississippi reported pervasive petroleum smells Tuesday.

It's to be expected, officials said, with all that crude in the Gulf of Mexico. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the air constantly with two buses and a plane, a spokesman said. So far it's safe.

He said people can smell the chemical odor of evaporating crude at levels in the air well below the levels that concern the EPA. It was described variously as a burned-plastic odor, odd waxy smell and the smell of diesel exhaust.

Mexico considers action against BP

MEXICO CITY — Mexico is weighing legal action against BP over the massive Gulf oil spill that threatens to harm turtles and other wildlife migrating between the waters of the U.S. and Mexico.

The black stain has not reached Mexico's coast and is not expected to do so, Environmental Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada said Tuesday.

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But the agency is nonetheless closely monitoring the disaster's impact on various species in Mexico. Tiny Lora turtles, for example, which lay their eggs and nest on the Gulf Coast beaches of Tamaulipas and Veracruz, spend part of their year off the coast of Louisiana, the secretary said.

Public support for drilling slips

WASHINGTON — A plurality of Americans still support expanding offshore oil drilling, but that support has dropped since the Gulf oil spill, according to a new Ipsos-McClatchy poll.

The survey found 49 percent of Americans supported expanded offshore drilling and 38 percent opposed it, with 12 percent unsure.

While Americans still leaned more toward expanded drilling than against it, their support has decreased since earlier polls by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center using somewhat different methodology.

Those surveys before the spill found 63 percent supporting expanded drilling in February and 68 percent supporting it in April 2009.

At the same time, a new Pew poll released Tuesday found Americans critical of the response to the Gulf spill by both the government and BP, with views of the government rivaling immediate reactions to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

A majority of Americans, 54 percent, say the federal government's response so far has been fair or poor, comparable to the 58 percent who gave similar marks to the government in September 2005, immediately after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast.

Just 38 percent approve of the way President Obama has handled the oil leak, while 36 percent disapproved. The numbers were worse for former President George W. Bush in Katrina's aftermath, when 52 percent disapproved.

Obama has put on hold his proposal to allow more offshore drilling until the government completes a review of the spill.

Seattle Times news services

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