On the day before Thanksgiving, November 23, 2011, a two-year old, male Atlantic bottlenose dolphin was found swimming in a shallow, semi-enclosed marshy area near Ft. Morgan, Alabama. The dolphin was dehydrated, and had several cuts, scrapes, bruises, and parasites. The dolphin had been trapped for some time and was emaciated and weak. When the dolphin stranded itself on the shore, several people noticed and tried to return the animal to the water. When the dolphin stranded itself again, they called IMMS for help. These good Samaritans remained with the dolphin until the IMMS stranding team arrived to provide emergency care. While they were waiting for help to arrive, they named the dolphin ‘Chance’, hoping that the sick animal would have a ‘chance’ at survival. Chance was transported to the IMMS rehabilitation center located in Gulfport, MS. He was examined and treated by veterinarian Dr. Heidi Zurawka and then placed in an above-ground, quarantine, rehabilitation pool.
Blood and tissue samples have been taken and sent to NOAA-directed laboratories around the country for testing. Chance has been monitored 24-7 since he arrived at IMMS and his condition is stable. On the same day (11/23), two other dead dolphins were found in the same general area as Chance. Four additional dolphins have washed up on MS beaches (Pass Christian, Gulfport, Waveland, and Pascagoula).
· Chance has gained approx. seven lbs. since his IMMS arrival.
· As of Saturday (11/26), Chance began eating fish given to him from animal husbandry staff members.
Approximately 580 dolphins have died since February 2010. In spring of 2011, many aborted stillborn, and newborn calves were found stranded in Mississippi and Alabama. IMMS scientists hope that by studying Chance, it will help them learn why hundreds of dolphins have died recently in Coastal waters.
The approximately 580 bottlenose dolphin deaths could be the result of HABs, heavy metals in the water column, the BP oil spill, or a combination of anthropogenic or environmental factors. Due to the litigation between NOAA and the Dept. of Justice and BP, and an Unusual Mortality Event (UME), all necropsy records and tissue/blood samples were legally requested and given to NOAA representatives by IMMS and other stranding network organizations. No scientific papers can be published on research data or analyses pertaining to the dolphin and sea turtle deaths until the UME and subsequent litigation have been resolved.