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Jerry, a stranded bottlenose dolphin

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Jerry, a stranded bottlenose dolphin

June 14, 2003

On June 14, 2003 I (Allen), Tabbie Merrills, Hugh Wilde, and Buddy Nance, were loading Spyhop at the old Coast Guard docks when Tabbie saw a dolphin swimming in the Bight heading toward a shallow area. As we watched the dolphin swam up to the shore. At first we didn’t think much about this because we often see dolphins in shallow water feeding. But when some kids approached the dolphin from the shore and the dolphin appeared to remain in the same place we knew something was wrong. We immediately placed a call to the Marine Mammal Stranding Network to report a live stranding.

After talking with the local stranding coordinator, Gretchen Lovewell, it was decided to seek the advice of a veterinarian with the NCSU veterinarian school, Dr. Craig Harms. As luck would have it the Dr. Harms had kayaked to the Cape earlier that morning to climb the lighthouse and just happened to check his messages. We were all surprised to see him come kayaking up.

As Dr. Harms examined the dolphin we saw that a shark had bitten it and that it was listing to one side. It was a big dolphin and highly unlikely to have been bitten by a shark unless it was already weak. Dr. Harms thought this could be good candidate for rehabilitation so the decision was made to transport the dolphin to the NOAA Lab on Pivers Island.

We loaded the dolphin on to Haywood Holderness’s boat and transported the dolphin to Harkers Island where NOAA personnel Aleta Hohn , Annie Gorgone, Gretchen Lovewell, and Ari Friedlander from Duke met us. We loaded the dolphin into the back of a pickup truck, covered him with wet towels and transported him to the NOAA lab. Four of us rode in the back spraying him with water. At the NOAA Lab we unloaded the dolphin into a temporary pool. Dr. Harms took blood samples for analysis and tube fed him some liquids.

It was necessary for someone to be in the pool with him at all times to help him keep his head above water to breath and to keep him from listing to one side. Tabbie started contacting possible volunteers and making an around the clock schedule. We had volunteers from the local community, NOAA, Duke Marine Lab, NC Maritime Museum, and NCSU School of Veterinarian Medicine.

It was also necessary for us to provide some fish for him to eat. Hugh provided some frozen spots from his freezer. Leslie from William Smith Seafood in Beaufort kindly offered to help provide fish for food. Keith also provided some food, trashing his best cast net in the process. The dolphin would not eat so Dr. Harms made a fish slurry and tube fed him.

When the blood samples came back it was obvious that we had a very sick dolphin on our hands, but nobody gave up. Dr. Harms contacted the NCSU Veterinarian School and 2 veterinarian students came down from Raleigh to assist. Dr. Harms did everything possible to help the dolphin and spent countless hours with him, but he was an old sick dolphin and it was his time. When he died 3 days later, on June 17th, it was a sad time for all the people that had worked so hard to try and save him. The necropsy confirmed that he was a very sick dolphin.

Thanks to all the people that helped.







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Tursiops

Tursiops truncatus is the scientific name for the common bottlenose dolphin. Tursiops is also the user name shared by volunteers who contribute to this blog. If you have an idea for a blog post, or think we should comment on an article you’ve found, click the contact button above and drop us a line!

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