The past year was a good one for the oldest and youngest dolphins in Sarasota Bay.
The oldest resident female observed during 2013 was Nicklo, at 63 years; the oldest male was F154, at 50 years.
Calves were born to 17 resident mothers! Last year, we reported a very active late spring/summer breeding season, observing some of our females with adult male pairs, specifically Aya and F219. Their “dates” proved fruitful – Aya was observed with her third calf in June, and F219 with her fourth calf in July. Five first-time moms gave birth in 2013 (F179, F209, F223, B053, and WENT). Claire gave birth to her seventh calf, and Saida Beth had her tenth. Sadly, two of the 2013 babies are no longer observed with their mothers (F179 and Scooter), and are presumed dead.
We have lost six other Sarasota Bay resident dolphins in the past year: F205 (age 7), JOSC (age 16), F198 (age 17), FB93 (age 28), FB93’s 2012 dependent calf, and Otter (age 37). No cause of death could be determined for F205 or F198. JOSC died from complications related to a stingray barb that lodged in one of his vertebrae. Otter was hit by a boat in early July and died from his severe wounds less than one week later. FB93 became entangled in and choked on fishing line, and her new calf was unable to survive without her. More information about JOSC, Otter, and FB93 is available elsewhere in this issue. Despite these losses, the Sarasota Bay community is doing reasonably well and currently includes about 160 individuals.
We have been able to continue our year-round, monthly monitoring of the Sarasota bottlenose dolphin community thanks largely to support from the Batchelor Foundation, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, SeaGrant, and BP, as well as the continued dedication of our core volunteers and undergraduate interns.
As a result of these efforts, this dolphin community remains one of the most thoroughly studied free-ranging populations in the world.
This article was published on page 19 in the January 2014 Nicks n Notches.