I was just closing up our office to head home Thanksgiving Eve when I received a call from the refuge office at Bon Secour. A year or two ago I went through some additional training to learn how to gather data from a stranded sea turtle and take care of it if need be. Today it was not a stranded sea turtle. It was a stranded dolphin. They asked me to go and take a look at the animal and help out how I could until the recovery team could get there.
Our maintenance man Jim Merrick was here with me and we received some brief training about what to do then headed that way. Jim was there a few minutes before me and when I arived he was already knee deep in the water helping the dolphin stay upright. I brought some towels to help keep it’s back moist and we waited.
While we waited we heard the story of how the dolphin was found. Several owners and their children saw the dolphin splashing in the harbor and then it beached itself on shore at the head of the harbor. The owners headed to the cove and got the dolphin back into the water. They even got it back into the deeper water where it could swim. However, the dolphin was very sick and headed back to the shore. Soon after, Fish and Wildlife were called to help. The employees at the Bon Secour refuge contacted the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulf Port, Mississippi. The IMMS were on their way to retrive the dolphin and move it to their rehab facility.
In the mean time, Jim and some of the owners from Navy Cove were helping the dolphin stay upright and damp while we waited. Mike Reynolds from the “Share the Beach” program joined us and was in contact with IMMS throughout our wait. The dolphin kept his eyes closed and seemed very confused. At one point he seemed to really be struggling so the helpful volunteers moved him a bit further out of the water and dug holes in the ground on each side so he could rest comfortably with his flippers in a resting position.
The night was getting cooler and our volunteers were getting weary after 3 hours of being wet and holding the 400 pound dolphin upright but they forged on. We eased the hours by checking out the stars on the crystal clear night and coming up with a name for the dolphin that we now all claimed as our own. The family that originally found the dolphin named him Chance.
Just a bit before 7 in the evening the IMMS showed up with a vehicle of doctors and helpers and a large box truck to transport the dolphin to the rehab facility in Mississippi. They carefully examined the sick animal and then just as carefully loaded him on to the truck. Since that day, we have heard that he is doing some better and seems to be improving daily. It turns out that Chance is an unusual case and they are doing all they can to help him heal. All of the dolphin found beached since the oil spill were dead. Chance is the first live dolphin so he is getting some great attention from the doctors who are helping him. We have so many things to be thankful for here at the beach and this experience is the newest on our list.