By Aaron Barleycorn, BS, Chicago Zoological Society
The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program has participated in several dolphin rescues over the past few years. Our involvement can range from disentangling free-swimming dolphins, to treatment and release in the field, to rescuing and helping transport the animal to Mote’s dolphin and whale hospital for rehabilitation. One important aspect of rescue is to track the success of our efforts through post-release follow-up monitoring. Three recent success stories are the rescues of Ginger, FB28 and Scrappy.
In December 2008, a 3-year-old female resident dolphin named Ginger stranded on Siesta Beach and was taken to Mote for rehab. Ginger was treated for respiratory and gastrointestinal problems and released 2 months later sporting a brand new radio tag. She was closely monitored for two months post-release. Initially, her range was very small; most of Ginger’s early sightings were of her feeding alone off the same seawall. After the radio tag stopped transmitting, we kept track of Ginger during our monthly population monitoring surveys. She was seen over 50 times in 2009 (mostly during the early radio tracking), and 19 times in 2010. Over time, her range has increased, and she has been seen in larger groups, often socializing with other juveniles. Her most recent sighting was on 3 November 2010 off the coast of Longboat Key in a group of 21, including several juveniles, her mom and younger sibling, and FB25 with Nellie (see more about Nellie in the previous article).
On 22 June 2007, FB28, a 42-year-old male dolphin first tagged by the SDRP in 1971, was seen entangled with monofilament fishing line. The line was tightly wrapped three times from the dorsal fin to the fluke. On 6 July 2007, a SDRP rescue team was able to approach FB28 with a long handled cutting tool and remove the line from around the dorsal fin. The line was still draped across his fluke, but cutting the tension allowed the line to clear the rest of the way on its own. FB28 was sighted 13 times in 2010, most recently on 3 November 2010 in Anna Maria Sound. He is often seen “fish-whacking,” a foraging strategy involving striking fish with a quick movement of the fluke, an excellent sign that his fluke is functioning well. Now 45 years old, FB28 is one of our oldest known males. He suffers from a chronic fungal disease, lacaziosis, and is a subject of the dissertation research of Leslie Burdett Hart (see article in this issue).
In July 2006, Scrappy, an 8-year-old male, was observed entangled in a large men’s Speedo bathing suit. His head had gone through the waist and one of the leg holes, and the suit had worked its way back to the point that it was cutting deeply into the leading edge of both of his pectoral fins. Scrappy was temporarily captured on 3 August 2007, the bathing suit was removed, and he was released at the capture site. Since his release, he has been seen over 100 times including 15 times in 2010. His last sighting was on 3 November 2010, socializing in a group of 17 dolphins in mid-Sarasota Bay. He has yet to attempt any other fashion statements.
All photos © Sarasota Dolphin Research Program under NMFS permit #522-1785