If you see a stranded dolphin on the beach, it's natural human instinct to want to return the animal to the ocean.
But many experts actually warn against this.
Recently, the U.K. animal-welfare group called the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a warning to residents that putting a beached dolphin back in the water could actually cause more harm to the animal and to you.
As Metro reported, the RSPCA said many stranded animals do so because they're sick or dying. Putting them back in the water may kill them, or spread their disease to other animals. Plus, touching a sick stranded dolphin can also spread their illness to you.
Not only that, but moving a dolphin across the sand and back into the water could hurt it even further if not done properly, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
Never drag a dolphin back to sea. Professionals carry them in harnesses.
If you see a stranded marine mammal, the best thing you can do is call an expert, says the WDC. If you live in the U.K., call here. For Australian strandings, call here. In the United States, call here.
If you don't see your region listed, you can always try calling a local aquarium or animal-welfare group, and they'll be able to help or point you in the right direction.
But just because you shouldn't put a marine animal back in the ocean doesn't mean you can't help a stranded one in other ways.
The Institute For Marine Mammal Studies suggests carefully checking that the animal's blowhole isn't blocked and making sure its skin stays hydrated. You can do that by putting wet T-shirts or towels on its back. Just be sure to not cover the blowhole or fins. You can also dig small holes in the sand under its pectoral (side) fins to help it rest easier.
You're just making sure the animal stays comfortable while professional help arrives.
Just take caution when approaching the animal for any of those maneuvers as dolphins can thrash or bite and severely injure you.
They're still wild animals.
As Oceana noted, marine mammals like dolphins have laws protecting them from human harassment, so even if you're trying to help, you should be careful not to interfere too much.
When the experts arrive, if they deem the animal healthy enough to be put back in the ocean, they will do so. If not, they can get the sick animal the help it needs.
Basically, when in doubt, call an expert.