DoC ranger Shayne Storey telling volunteers what to do if the dolphins returned to the beach on Friday.

It wasn't orca, as initially reported, that chased a large pod of common dolphins into the shallows at the northern end of Tokerau Beach on Friday morning. It was bottlenose dolphins, a larger species that is known to prey on its smaller cousins.

Local man Eddie Bellas was first to respond to the potential stranding at about 6am, and was soon joined by others.

Thomson Lawrence calculated the pod at 23, although some reports referred to as many as 40.

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"It wasn't easy to count them," Mr Lawrence said.

Some of the smaller ones were wounded, and four actually stranded, but all subsequently returned to open water.

Kaitaia DoC ranger Shayne Storey said there was nothing unusual about bottlenose dolphins hunting the common variety, and that the animals should not be forced back out from the beach until the predatory bottlenose pod had departed.

The bottlenose dolphins did finally leave, and later in the day were seen in Mangonui Harbour.

Project Jonah said in a statement that the common dolphins were joined by up to 30 more when they were about 20 metres off the beach.

Those who responded included DoC rangers, Fire and Emergency, a Far North Surf Rescue crew from Ahipara and volunteers from the local area and further afield.