Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dolphin saved from death but lost an eye in the process

The efforts of two federal fisheries officers, an RCMP officer and a passerby saved a dolphin from certain death Friday in a muddy rescue operation near Digby.

Fisheries officers Howard Blinn and Kevin Juteau and RCMP Const. Mike O’Callahan were conducting joint fishery patrols Friday afternoon when a call came in that some minke whales had beached themselves in Digby.

When the officers arrived at the Annapolis Basin location, they discovered the animals were in fact white-sided dolphins.

One was in a fairly deep tidal pool and managed to swim to freedom when the tide returned.
"It took us awhile to find the other one, which was beached," Mr. Blinn said.

The condition of that little dolphin was heartbreaking, he said.

The drying body of the two-metre mammal heaved as it continued to draw breath on a section of mud flats behind a tavern in Conway, on the outskirts of Digby.

A couple of seagulls had perched atop the dolphin and pecked mercilessly at its eye, which was streaming blood.

Officers waved off the birds but it was too late to save the eye.

A passerby, Edwin Dunkerley, saw what was happening and went to help the officers.

The four men went to work wetting down the dolphin and searching for a makeshift stretcher. Someone found a partial sheet of plasticized cardboard.

"We put the dolphin on there and we dragged it to the channel," said Mr. Blinn.

Although they only had to move the dolphin about 70 metres, it took the men a good half-hour as they sank to their knees while dragging the dolphin, which probably weighed 135 kilograms, said Mr. Blinn.

"We finally got it in the channel and the tide was coming up and he started to respond a bit."
They continued to cover the dolphin with water and mud.

"When the tide came in, we saw him take off," said Mr. Blinn.

The one-eyed dolphin headed for deep water and didn’t return.

"They found one dead the next day, Saturday morning," Mr. Blinn said. "Somebody called in but it wasn’t (the same) one," he said.

That dolphin had two good eyes.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"