Rescued! Mother dolphin, yearling saved in Harbor Island inlet

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Rescued! Mother dolphin, yearling saved in Harbor Island inlet

BY IAN LESLIE ileslie@beaufortgazette.com 843-986-5527
Published Thursday, August 7, 2008 in The Island Packet  |  456 Words  |  news/local

BEAUFORT -- Life's to-do list became a little shorter Wednesday for Amy Wildeman. Not only did she get to swim with the dolphins, but she also helped save them.
Wildeman was the first person to spot two bottle-nosed dolphins stranded in a Harbor Island inlet Wednesday morning.
The dolphins -- a full-grown female and her yearling -- had entered the inlet at high tide and became trapped when the tide went back out. Wednesday's low tide was at about 7:15 a.m.
"At first I just saw the big one because the baby was hidden behind the mommy," said Wildeman, who lives in Spartanburg and was visiting a friend on Harbor Island.
Wildeman found the dolphins at about 8 a.m. while she was walking on the beach. Within minutes, a group of more than a dozen Harbor Island residents and visitors walked out into the pluff mud and started covering the dolphins with damp blankets and pouring water on them. They also dug a trench around the dolphins to collect pooling water.
"If I could draw it up any way, this is how I would do it," Al Segars, a veterinarian with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, said of the rescue effort.
Rescuers were able to keep the dolphins cool until the tide came back in, and they were able to swim off.
Segars, who arrived just minutes after the dolphins freed themselves, said the mammals likely weren't stranded as much as they had gotten trapped after snacking for too long.
"These guys stayed one fish too long at lunch, and they were toast," he said. "They were having some great mullet and were having so much fun, and when they tried to leave, it was too late to get
out."
The dolphins likely would have overheated and died had the group not gathered to help them or if they had been stranded in the middle of the day, Segars said.
"The fortunate thing is that tide-wise, it was early morning," he said, adding that the dolphins couldn't have lasted more than two hours in the blazing heat. Temperatures already were in the 90s by mid-morning, and heat indexes were well over 100 throughout the day.
Although he thinks the dolphins were healthy when they swam away, Segars said area residents should keep an eye out in case one of them was
seriously injured and washes up on a nearby island.
As for Wildeman, Wednesday's event was the last thing she expected out of her vacation to Harbor Island.
"It was amazing," she said. "I can take swimming with the dolphins off of my list of things to do."