Harrison County

Rare dolphin found at a Biloxi beach. It’s sick and had been hunted, veterinarian says.

A stranded rough-toothed dolphin — a rare find along coastal waters off the Gulf of Mexico — apparently became separated from its mother and was hunted by deep-sea fishermen before it was found on the Biloxi beach.

The juvenile dolphin, a female, has pneumonia and had a large hook in its mouth, indicating a deep-sea fishing crew had tried to catch her, said Moby Solangi, a veterinarian and executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

Neal Peterson of Biloxi found the dolphin Friday morning while walking on the beach across from the Ocean Club off Ocean Club Boulevard. The area is just east of the old Broadwater Marina.

The female dolphin, about 6 feet, 10 inches long, and weighing about 140 pounds, was rolled over on its side when Peterson saw her.

“My first thought was that’s not normal and it was in really shallow water,” Peterson said.

He looked around for some of his friends that go fishing there to see if they had a number he could call, but had no luck, and called the Biloxi Police Department non-emergency line. Police called the IMMS in Gulfport and put them in touch with Peterson.

“A lady had come up about that time,” Peterson said. “Marine biologists told us to hold her up to keep her blow hole out of the water,” Peterson said.

Peterson said it was “an exciting moment” when marine biologists showed up.

“Hopefully we saved her,” he said. “I’ll be checking on her.”

The dolphin needs ongoing medical care.

“There are times we are having to help hold it up in the water to help it stay afloat,” Solangi said of rehab efforts. “It is in serious but guarded condition.”

The rough-toothed dolphin is found in deep tropical waters, not the warmer coastal waters just off the Gulf of Mexico, Solangi said That would have put the dolphin as traveling some 100 miles offshore before it reached the Mississippi Sound, he said.

“She must have become separated from her mother and distracted by a deep-sea fishing expedition,” Solangi said.

It’s at least the second discovery of a stranded dolphin on the Mississippi Coast since July, when a dead bottlenose dolphin washed ashore in July. A beachgoer saw it April 30 between Buccaneer State Park and Clermont Harbor.

The bottlenose dolphin was “freshly dead” and was later found to have been shot. A reward of $11,5000 has been offered to anyone who helps identify the person who shot the dolphin.

It’s a violation of federal law to catch a dolphin in the wild, and protecting dolphins falls under the National Oceanic and Administration.

Anyone with information about either of the dolphins is asked to call the NOAA Hotline at 1-800-853-1964 or the Slidell field office at 1-985-643-6232.

To report a stranded dolphin on the Mississippi Coast, call the IMMS at 1-888-767-3657, also known as 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN.

The dolphin is under the care of veterinary and animal care staff at the IMMS.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews