Entangled Dolphin Rescued in Florida

Dolphin Entanglement Rescue in West Florida

A dolphin calf once entangled in fishing line and gear is swimming freely again with its mother after being rescued yesterday off the west coast of Florida by a team of biologists, a commercial fisherman, veterinarians, and law enforcement personnel.

The young male dolphin was seen over the past few weeks in Lemon Bay, near Englewood, Florida, with fishing line and gear wrapped around its body and tail as well as through its mouth.

Staff from the Chicago Zoological Society’s (CZS) Sarasota Dolphin Research Program based in Florida led a team experienced in stranding response along Florida’s west coast in catching both mom and her calf, removing the embedded gear, conducting a brief health assessment, and successfully releasing them back into the wild. 

Dolphin Entanglement Rescue in West Florida

In order to keep mom and her calf calm, biologists held both close together while the team disentangled the animal from fishing line embedded in his tail and mouth. The pair exchanged whistles with each other as they were held.

The entanglement was significant, with fishing line cutting through each side of the calf’s tail. The line also was embedded in tissue in the calf’s mouth, forming a “bridle." The team was able to cut the line and pull it out, give the calf an antibiotic shot, take measurements, and collect a blood sample. After about an hour of treatment the calf was free of gear and both animals swam away looking strong.

Dolphin Entanglement Rescue in West Florida

In the coming weeks, CZS biologists will monitor the calf's progress. In addition to Chicago Zoological Society staff, the rescue, which was conducted under a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) permit, included collaborating partners from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

“The success of this rescue was largely due to the fact that our amazing team of collaborators has worked together on many other rescues and dolphin health assessment projects over the years along the west coast of Florida,” said Randy Wells, director of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. “Such experience and expertise is crucial for safely and effectively intervening with a compromised young dolphin.

With many families from the Chicago area heading to Florida for the upcoming spring break, it is important to remember to admire wildlife from a distance as well as dispose of trash and recreational gear in a proper manner. If you are fishing and dolphins do come by, reel in the lines and enjoy the view until the dolphins are gone from the area.

The best way to help marine life in trouble is to call trained responders, report your location and wait near the animal. Please call 1-877-WHALE HELP to report injured or dead marine life or use NOAA's Dolphin and Whale 911 phone app.


Photographs taken by the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program under National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) permit no. 18786-03

Posted: 3/13/2019 10:51:51 AM by Bryan Todd Oakley

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Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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