Dolphin found dead

@BR Ednote:Published March 22, 2007

GULFPORT -- A dead bottlenose dolphin was found in the Mississippi Sound between Hewes Avenue and the old Gulfport VA.

The dolphin carcass was spotted early Wednesday afternoon by Gene Street, whose FEMA trailer is across the street.

“I haven’t seen any (dolphins) since the storm,” said Street, who, like many onlookers, saw the dolphin’s fin poking out from the water and thought it was swimming in the Sound.

About noon, Street called the Gulfport Police Department and the Marine Resources Department.

The Marine Resources Patrol Department and the Dolphin Rescue Team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies arrived about 4 p.m.

“When we see animals that are dead or injured, we study them, because they are mammals. Whatever happens to them could happen to us,” said Moby Solangi, president of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

Solangi warned the public not touch or go near the dead dolphin. He said a permit is required to handle the animal and that the Sand Beach Authority had been called to remove it.

“If it comes ashore, we’ll get it in the morning,” said Bobby Weaver, Sand Beach Authority director. “If it stays offshore, we have no way of retrieving it.” Weaver said typically the animals wash ashore.

Solangi said if the Sand Beach Authority cannot retrieve the dolphin, park services or the marine fishery will dispose of it.

Wednesday afternoon the Dolphin Rescue Team measured the dolphin, determined its gender, noted its physical condition and pulled a tooth for age analysis.

Solangi said most animals strand in the spring and summer as they move closer to shore to give birth.

“They see this side of the island as a safe place,” he said. The shallow water makes it easier for newborn calves and the murky water deters sharks.

Had the animal been in good condition it would have been taken to the research facility for a necropsy, an animal autopsy.

Street, who regularly watches for dolphins from his home, was surprised the animal was dead.

“I’ve been here for 10 years and this is the only dead one I’ve seen,” he said.

The Marine Patrol Department of Marine Resources verified the dolphin was dead. Onlookers gathered throughout the day. A few kicked off their shoes and waded into the ankle-deep water for a closer look.