The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program has rescued many dolphins over the years.
These rescues vary from remote disentanglement of fishing line, to capture for treatment and release in the field, to transport for rehabilitation at Mote’s dolphin and whale hospital.
An important part of any intervention is post-release monitoring, to learn what works and what does not in each situation. This information has been vital to managers when creating guidelines for rehabilitation and release.
Fortunately, to date in 2013 we have not had any cases where Sarasota Dolphin Research Program rescue efforts have been needed. The following are updates on several of our rescue cases from previous years.
Lizzie: One of our Sarasota residents since birth, Lizzie, has had an eventful couple of years. She was one of 10 dolphins to have small, experimental satellite-linked tags attached to their dorsal fin in May 2012. As part of the tag test, she and her 3-year-old calf were observed during focal animal follows to compare her behavior with and without the tag. During one of these follows, SDRP staff noticed that Lizzie had become entangled with monofilament line around, and embedded in, one of her flukes. Shortly after, her calf was struck by a boat propeller that left a large gash on his dorsal fin. Lizzie and her calf were briefly captured on 20 July 2012 to remove the fishing line and the tag, and conduct a follow-up health examination as part of the tag test experiment. During her examination, she was determined via ultrasound to have recently become pregnant! She was first seen with her fourth and newest calf on 8 May 2013, and both are doing well.
Seymour: In December 2011, Seymour, a juvenile dolphin near Marco Island, Florida was reported with fishing line tightly wrapped around his tail. After close observation over the next few months, the National Marine Fisheries Service determined that Seymour would need help. On 9 March 2012, Seymour was temporarily captured and disentangled, in a collaborative effort involving a number of organizations. The line had cut deeply into his tissue, but after removal, veterinarians determined Seymour’s best chance at recovery was to remain in the wild. SDRP staff fitted him with a satellite-linked tag and he was released. The tag transmitted location and dive information for 84 days. The data indicated Seymour was behaving normally. He has shed his tag and was last reported by local observers in September 2012.
Vidalia: In the fall of 2011, a yearling calf named Vidalia was reported by Dr. Ann Weaver in Boca Ciega Bay, Florida to have fishing line wrapped around his head and body. As he swam, the line was slowly sawing deeper into his mouth, flippers, body, and dorsal fin. In November 2011, Vidalia and his mother, Valiant, were temporarily captured near John’s Pass, Florida, by a team of collaborating organizations working under the direction of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. The line was removed from Vidalia, and he and his mom were released. Dr. Weaver has been tracking Vidalia post-release. His wounds have healed, but he will bear the scars of his entanglement for the rest of his life. Vidalia has been seen frequently during 2013, in good condition. He is still with his mother, but beginning to show signs of independence.
Nellie: In February 2010, the yearling calf of resident dolphin FB25 was seen with plastic twine and a metal hook tightly wrapped around her head, partially embedded in tissue. She was temporarily captured by the SDRP, disentangled and released on 1 March 2010. She was named “Nellie” in honor of Dr. Nélio Barros, a great friend and colleague, who had recently passed away. She has been observed frequently in 2013, and was recently seen in a large group that also included her mom and younger brother.
Ginger: In December 2008, Ginger, a recently independent juvenile female dolphin stranded on Siesta Beach. SDRP staff arrived on the scene to stabilize her until Mote rescue personnel could arrive, and she was taken to Mote’s dolphin hospital, treated for complications from the stranding, and released two months later. The SDRP radio-tagged her and closely monitored her for two months post-release, until the tag transmissions ceased. Ginger has since been regularly seen during our monthly population monitoring surveys. She has been seen frequently in 2013, expanding her range as she matures. She is now 8 years old, and was recently seen in the company of males, on a “date,” near Venice, Florida. We would not be surprised to see her with her first calf next year!
FB28: In June 2007, adult male FB28 was seen entangled in monofilament fishing line. The line was tightly wrapped three times from his fluke to his dorsal fin. On 6 July 2007, SDRP staff members were able to use a long handled cutting tool to remove much of the line remotely, while FB28 was free swimming (not an easy task). A small piece of line was left on the fluke, but the tension had been released, and the line later cleared completely off the fluke. FB28, one of the dolphins first identified during the SDRP pilot study in 1971, is now 48 years old – one of the oldest known males in Sarasota Bay. He has been seen four times in 2013, most recently on 6 September 2013 feeding in the shallows outside the Manatee River. One of those sightings was with our oldest male, F154, who is 50 years old and was first identified by the SDRP in 1970!
Scrappy: In July 2006, Scrappy, a juvenile male was observed entangled in a men’s Speedo bathing suit. He had managed to put his head through the waist and one of the leg holes, and the suit had worked its way back to the point where it was cutting into his body at the anterior insertion of his pectoral fins (flippers). On 3 August 2006, Scrappy was briefly captured by the SDRP, the suit was removed, he was treated by veterinarians, and he was released. Now 14 years old, Scrappy has been seen frequently in 2013. He and several other males his age are starting to pair off into alliances. He and C835 have been spending a lot of time together lately; perhaps they will become “wing-dolphins.”
This article was published on pages 28-29 in the January 2014 Nicks n Notches.