The first was seen washed up against the south jetty rocks and was dead, but it had not been dead for long. It was recovered by Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) worker Guy Davis and University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) boat captain Frank Ernst using the R/V Shearwater and was six and a half feet long, weighing in at 197 pounds. Except for the scrape marks caused by pounding up against the granite jetty rocks, he showed no sign of injury, not even the rake marks often inflicted by male dolphins due to rough play or rivalry conflicts. This was the 922nd dolphin or whale to be stranded dead or alive in the wider Port Aransas region in the past 30 years (25 this year). The carcass will be preserved, frozen, at UTMSI until a necropsy can be performed to learn more about the cause for death.
Thursday was a rough day for animals here, with two dead green sea turtles banging against the jetty rocks, one live turtle brought in from Padre Island National Seashore and five live birds needing rescuing and rehabilitation at the ARK. Some 282 sea turtles have been stranded and 1,395 birds admitted to the ARK this year alone!
The second bottlenose dolphin was found on South Padre Island alive, despite being wounded, with numerous shark bites. It was transported to the Texas State Aquarium’s (TSA) Sea Lab by members of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network ( TMMSN). Lea Walker is coordinator for the Corpus Christi Region of the TMMSN and has organized volunteers to tend to the injured dolphin, which needs attention 24 hours per day. He is too weak to swim without assistance and is being walked around the tank, round-theclock. At this cold time of the year, “dolphin walkers” cannot stay in the water for hours on end, so several volunteers are needed each shift. Instead of opening presents ‘round a cozy fire this Christmas morning,* I got to don my wetsuit and climb into a tank full of not-too-cozy water to assist in feeding “Bo,” who gets fed every four hours. Wearing “TonyCam” on my head, I was able to film the feeding both above and below the water. You can learn more by going to the TMMSN site at http://www.tmmsn.org/ rescue_ rehab/rescue_ profile/ PI275/PI275.htm.
*Actually, it was a privilege to be able to assist Bo Jingles! TMMSN needs volunteers to help, and as the TMMSN coordinator for the Port Aransas region, I am trying to recruit some more volunteers for dolphin stranding rescues here. This is not the same as being an ARK volunteer, although you can be both. In general, we get about 30 strandings per year, and almost all of them are dead. Live strandings are much rarer, but require intense work all around. Most will go to the state facility in Galveston, but there’s plenty of work to be done here, including record keeping. If you are interested, contact me at (361) 442-7638.
Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and director of the ARK – Animal Rehabilitation Keep.