In Jacksonville, Florida, a vacationing family noticed a dolphin that was stuck on a sand bar, and attempted to rescue it. A woman and her father pulled the dolphin off the sand bar, while the woman’s 11-year-old son caught the event on camera (see below).
Several stories have surfaced in recent news of beachcombers attempting to rescue stranded dolphins. While it is encouraging to see people taking action, experts recommend not trying to rescue stranded mammals independently. The best option in such cases is to call a marine conservation organization if one is available. In a similar situation in Brazil involving 30 stranded dolphins, a marine mammal specialist said the tail-grabbing manner the people used to pull them out of the shallow water could dislocate bones in the tail or even tear off a flipper.
A local conservation organization can respond better, because they are professionally trained in animal rescue. If they are not the first responders, they can forward the call to the right people. If they say they are unable to respond, they might be able to give proper instructions over a cell phone on how to move a dolphin at the same time making sure not to injure it. Some of the marine mammal organizations in Florida are:
- Florida Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Southwest Region
- Marine Animal Rescue Society, North Miami, Florida
- Florida’s Gulfarium, Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Even calling the local fire department might be better than simply undertaking it on one’s own.
While the dolphin in Jacksonville was freed from the sand bar, no one knows for sure whether or not it was injured, because it swam away after it was pulled to deeper water, with no medical examination.
Dolphins are not designed to be pulled on sand by their tails or flippers. Other options might have been to dig sand from under the dolphin, so a number of people could reach under it and pick it up, providing even support for the whole body, or slip a stretcher under it so it could be carried with better support.
When marine conservationists relocate a trapped dolphin, typically they have a team of at least several people. A team of three to six people who are properly trained can handle a dolphin much more competently and gently to ensure as little damage as possible results from the transfer.
Sometimes the people who spot stranded dolphins in coastal areas are tourists who have no knowledge of marine mammal rescue and could either inflict damage on the animal they are trying to help or injure themselves in the process.
Image Credit: BabyNuke, Public Domain