While enjoying a beach walk the day following a storm, it is common to find an unusual shell, large clumps of drying seaweed, or sometimes a completely cleaned shoreline.
But on November 10, beach walkers on the island of Gulf Shores, Alabama happened upon something much bigger – and it was fortunate that they did.
It is assumed that the strong winds and waves from Tropical Storm Ida were responsible for separating a young bottlenose dolphin from his family. Found 150 yards from the shore, the 2-year-old, six-foot-four-inch, 190-lb. dolphin was in serious condition after being out of the water at least 4 hours. The walkers contacted the Marine Mammal Stranding Network for help. The MMSN then called for a dolphin ambulance from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi.
A team of 20 at the institute has assisted with nursing the dolphin over the past three weeks. Although not completely out of the woods, he has shown marked improvement. After two weeks of being fed through a tube, he now will take fish from the staff and even play with his toys.
Returning him to his natural habitat is the goal. But finding his family may not be possible, and he may be too young to survive on his own. Training and assessments are ongoing, and the final decision on release will be made by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
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