DESTIN — A dolphin calf, rescued off the coast of Destin last weekend, was successful treated and released after its tail was entangled in a fishing line, which caused extensive scarring along with a partial amputation of the fluke.
Experts from eight marine life agencies gathered at Choctawhatchee Bay near Destin in Okaloosa County in what turned out to be a two day effort to search for the bottlenose dolphin calf and untangled its tail that was wrapped in fishing line.
The effort, coordinated by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, drew more than 30 officials and rescue staff from NOAA, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, Gulf World Marine Park, Sea World, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Dauphin Island Sea Lab to assist in the rescue.
Rescue teams spent the first day and part of the second day searching for calf. On day two, the calf was found swimming next to her mother near Destin’s East Pass.
The mom and calf were safely restrained in the water and placed on a floating pad to allow the medical team to perform an exam on both animals to assess their overall health.
Dr. Forrest Townsend, a veterinarian and owner of Bayside Hospital for Animals in Fort Walton Beach, successfully removed the fishing line that was embedded in the fluke of the calf. He also administered appropriate medications and drew blood from the calf for later evaluation during the exam and evaluation. Both mammals were tagged to aid in future visual identification before released.
Last weekend’s incident brought back memories of the story of local dolphin, Winter, who was found stranded in Mosquito Lagoon near Cape Canaveral in December 2005. Her tail became entangled in a crab trap line, which eventually cut off circulation to her tail flukes. After the line was removed, she was transported to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which has since been her home. However, despite treatment and efforts to promote healing, her tail deteriorated and could not be saved.
Winter is the subject of the 2011 film Dolphin Tale, a dramatization of her story, and the upcoming sequel Dolphin Tale 2, expected to be released Sept. 12.
Winter has since become a highly popular attraction at the aquarium. She lives in her pool with another dolphin, Hope, who is the subject of the movie sequel.