Saturday, March 15, 2008

Beached White-sided dolphin meets sad fate!

Rescue efforts by marine life experts and police failed to save a stranded white-sided dolphin off Seaside Park Sunday.

The female dolphin, held in the frigid waters by Sandi Schaefer, a staffer from the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, and police divers for nearly three hours, died about 15 minutes before a rescue crew from Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration could arrive.

"The cause of death could have been anything," Schaefer said Monday. She got a call about 3:45 p.m. Sunday that a dolphin had been spotted in the water off Bridgeport.

Schaefer left a message with Mystic's line to report stranded sea life and notified Bridgeport police. Initial reports were that the female dolphin had beached itself, but had been pushed back into the water by a passer-by.

Schaefer was called to the scene at 5:15 p.m. when a marine patrol found the sea mammal about 100 to 150 feet off shore.

Schaefer hurried to the scene and found the dolphin in poor condition.

"Out of the water, the pressure on the body can cause severe injury to the animal. We moved the animal back into the water and remained with the animal, keeping it upright so it wouldn't drown," she said.

Meanwhile, Mystic had dispatched Cindy Davis, an assistant in its program to rescue stranded sea life, to the scene.

Schaefer said there were quite a few onlookers at Seaside when the rescue effort began. The crowd thinned out considerably as night fell.

One onlooker was Jessica

Hernandez, 27, of Bridgeport. A photography student at the Academy of Art University, an online school based in San Francisco, Hernandez was driving around with her mother, looking to photograph "a memorable image" to fulfill a midterm assignment due this week.

"We decided to go down to Seaside and saw all these police cars. Everyone was looking in the water. It was low tide," said Hernandez.

She grabbed her camera, walked out on the sandbar to get close-up shots. She didn't learn until Monday that the dolphin didn't make it.

Schaefer said the dolphin, about 5 feet long, had an injury to its dorsal fin but not significant enough to kill the creature.

Tim Grey, a spokesman at Mystic, praised the rescue efforts. He said a necropsy of the dolphin was under way Monday at Mystic.

He said it is much more common for harbor seals to get stranded, but that a beached dolphin is not unheard of. One was found two weeks ago off Rhode Island, he said.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"