Saturday, March 18, 2006

Confusion between dolphin's distress and mating call

It was 8:20 a.m. Tuesday when a Port Richey police dispatcher got the call.

A resident on Sunset Boulevard reported seeing an injured dolphin near Harbor Pointe at channel marker 17, at the mouth of the Pithlachascotee River.

The animal was bleeding. Preparing for the worst, officials sprang into action.

The dispatcher called Florida Marine Patrol at 8:24.

A veterinarian from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium was called at 8:30

At 8:45, the Port Richey Police Department's marine unit arrived in wet suits and went down the river using two boats borrowed from a civilian.

At 9:15, the Port Richey Fire Department was called.

Police Sgt. David Brown said the scene "gave the appearance the other dolphins were trying to help by nosing, or pushing, the injured dolphin to the surface.

Closer inspection by veterinarian Janine Cianciolo told a different story: A female dolphin was surrounded by two male dolphins. She was bleeding because the trio had been horsing around.
The injury was minor, leading the Fire Department to cancel the call at 10:47.

"What looked like dolphin distress turned out to be a mating procedure," Brown said. "It wasn't a dolphin in distress call. It was a Mother Nature call. I'm sure the dolphins were saying, "Go away, leave us alone.' "

Council member Phyllis Grae, who lives nearby, said the dolphin behavior was something she has seen before.

"They love to mate on those waters," she said. "We see that a lot. I guess it's calm and serene."

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"