Living on the Gulf Coast, we’re surrounded by nature, but sometimes Mother Nature could use a little help. A little more than a week ago, a dolphin was rescued from the northern section of the Perdido River.
It wasn’t stranded on the shore, or hit by a boat. It spent about a month in fresh water. That’s too long for the saltwater thriving bottle-nose dolphin. It couldn’t swim back to saltwater because the channel out was too shallow. Lesions on the dolphin’s skin had already started to appear as visual signs of distress.
“It’s actually the cells, the skin cells are bursting,” said Noel Wingers, a member of Rescue Team and the Coordinator for Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN). “So the lesions are actually necrotic, or dead tissue but it kind of looks like little mats of algae on the animal. They’re typically circular but as they expand, they can even cover the entire body.”
A team of more than 40 people showed up to help move the dolphin into salt water. The team included biologists and veterinarians from rescue services in Alabama and Florida, including Sea World. The dolphin was tagged and released into Perdido Bay.
“We will be monitoring the animal,” said Wingers. “We want to check for signs that it is progressing in its health and the freshwater lesions that we saw are clearing up, which typically happens when they get back into the salt water.”
Stranded dolphins can be a common problem in spring. It is the time of year when many dolphins, called calves are born. Rescue teams agree that the problem for the dolphin stuck in the Perdido River wouldn’t have been solved without local residents reporting what they saw.
Dolphins are not the only marine mammals that can need rescuing along the Gulf Coast. Manatees may need to be rescued from boating injuries or entanglements. If you see an animal that may need help, you’re encouraged to contact a rescue team like the one in Dauphin Island. You can call ALMMSN at the number 1-877-WHALE-HELP. For more information on their mission, check out their Facebook page or website AL Marine Mammal Stranding Network.