[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Stunned dolphin gets the personal touch from rescuers


(Northwest Florida Daily News)

Stunned dolphin cradled by rescuers recovers, swims away
2012-01-09 10:30:18

GRAYTON BEACH — A spotted dolphin, normally found in offshore waters, swam away Saturday evening after being cradled in shallow water by two local men.

Shane Carter and Chris Pickren were at Grayton Beach with their families Saturday afternoon when they noticed a pod of dolphins cavorting about 100 yards off shore.

The animals were jumping, leaping and doing "crazy back flips," Carter said.

View photos of the rescue. »
About an hour later, they looked up and saw one of the animals rolling and twitching in shallow water. Carter's wife, Marla, called for help and the two men headed into the water.

"It was upside down," Shane said. "We held it blowhole up and it took a breath."

Grayton Beach park rangers arrived, along with a volunteer with the Marine Mammal Stranding Program for the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge. But the full rescue team wouldn't be there for about two hours, the men were told.

They eased the animal over to a spot that was about 24 inches deep, and Carter sat holding the dolphin's head on his lap.

"Every once in a while, it would make that high-pitched sound. Its eyes were opening a bit," Carter said. "It started to right itself and breathe a lot better."

As the animal recovered, it thumped Carter in the chest twice and the men had to decide what to do with the 400-plus-pound animal.

Marine Mammal Stranding experts recommend keeping animals on the beach until veterinary help arrives, since the animals usually beach themselves for a reason.

Carter said that after the dolphin started fighting them, they made the decision to let nature take its course.

"Once it came around and decided it wanted to go, we just respected that decision and let it go," Carter said. "We figured it was the dolphin's call. It wasn't our call."

Steve Shippee, who coordinates the local stranding program, said that although the animal may have benefited from medical attention, there weren't enough people there to handle the dolphin safely.

He said dolphins can play rough when they're horsing around and that it was possible this animal had been knocked hard enough to become disoriented.

Carter and Pickren walked it out to waist deep water and stayed there as it swam away.

For Pickren, it was his first unpaid dolphin encounter. The Santa Rosa Beach man had paid to swim with dolphins on vacation.

"It was pretty wild," he said. "You don't get to get that close to a dolphin."

As the men watched, the dolphin pod came back and rallied around the ailing animal.

"They started doing their spins and jumping," Carter said. "I like to think it all worked out."

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