CORPUS CHRISTI — The popular bottle nose dolphin residing in the canals on North Padre Island the last few years was rescued and taken to the Texas State Aquarium on Thursday to get checked out after a steady decline in health.
“Right now she’s going under something we call our critical care where we are treating her just as we would any rehabilitation patient that comes in,” said Heidi Whitehead, the executive director of the Texas Marine Mammals Stranding Network.
Different agencies including the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the Texas State Aquarium, Seaworld San Antonio and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worked together to bring her to safety.
“Most of the times we get strandings off the beach where they are receiving a full veterinary assessment," she said. “We are performing diagnostics, giving it supportive care and nutritional care.”
Biologists said they learned about the dolphin back in 2019 and have worked to educate the public on the dangers of interacting and feeding wild dolphins.
But as evidenced by posts on social media within the last year, people have not heeded the warnings and instead have flooded numerous platforms with pictures and videos swimming and feeding her.
Rescuers said she was so used to humans, she’s gotten serious injuries from being too close to boats.
“It’s something that we’ve seen repeatedly,” Whitehead said. “She has sustained propeller wounds and other watercraft injuries.”
Interacting with or feeding wild dolphins not only harms them, it is illegal. Violators can face up to $100,000 in fines and up to one year in jail per violation.
“Dolphins can become aggressive and start being pushy for food,” she said.
Biologists warn swimmers that see a dolphin close to them to leave the water and for boaters to not stop and try to pet it but drive away slowly.
Although ignoring them may seem harsh, especially since dolphins are very social animals, it’s both for human’s safety and theirs.
Anyone who sees a stranded dolphin or one in an unusual setting is encouraged to report it to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-800-962-6625.
Rescuers wanted to thank the community for monitoring the dolphin and reporting to the right agencies.
“We have had so many members of the community that we know care about this dolphin,” Whitehead said.
Whitehead says, once assessments are done, veterinarians will determine the next steps and hopefully get her back to the wild.
“The most important thing right now is to get her healthy and to make sure she’s at a healthy weight and doing well,” Whitehead said.