Dolphin Mother and Calf Rescued Near Grand Isle
On June 17, 2023 Audubon Nature Institute’s Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN) and their partners in the Southeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network rescued and released a dolphin and her calf that were trapped in a pond system near Grand Isle, Louisiana. The pair was presumed to have been out-of-habitat due to storm surge and coastal flooding associated with Hurricane Ida.
Audubon’s Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN) has been monitoring the pair for more than a year, waiting for the calf to be old enough to move to an area with access to open water. The pond where the mother and calf were found had ample food supplies, salinity and tidal flow but did not have pathways to the Gulf of Mexico.
The rescue team was coordinated by NOAA Fisheries in partnership with Audubon Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN), National Marine Mammal Foundation, SeaWorld Orlando, Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and South Carolina Aquarium.
“Rescuing this mother dolphin and her calf involved the collaboration of multiple groups and we are grateful for our partners who actively support and help in rescues like this,” said Audubon Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Rehab Coordinator Gabriella Harlamert.
Before release, the mother was satellite-tagged to monitor her movements post-rescue. The Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, funded by the NOAA John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, provided the satellite tag and will track the mom remotely for the next several months, providing valuable data on the success of the rescue and where these individual dolphins range. This information will contribute to a better understanding of overall dolphin movements in Louisiana waters.
It is common for storm surge and increased coastal flooding associated with hurricanes to cause marine mammals and sea turtles to strand on land or be washed into inland waterways where they are not typically observed, such as lakes, ponds, and canals. Animals may be found in these areas for weeks to months following the hurricane, requiring rescue by trained and authorized responders to return them to their natural habitat.
The public is advised to report all stranded or out-of-habitat marine mammals and sea turtles (live or dead) to CWN at 877-942-5343.
When reporting strandings, the public should be prepared to give:
· Exact location and/or GPS coordinates
· Photographs of the animal
· Nature of the report (type of animal/live or dead/size, etc.)
Recommendations when reporting a live stranded animal include:
· Put human safety above animal safety. If conditions are dangerous, do not attempt to approach the animal.
· Don't push an animal on shore back into the water.
· Keep crowds away and noise levels down to avoid causing stress to the animal.
· If the animal returns to the water on its own, don't attempt to interact with it.
· Leave all entanglements that may be present on the animal.
Coordinated by Audubon Nature Institute, the Coastal Wildlife Network (CWN) is NOAA Fisheries’ primary stranding network response partner for marine mammals and sea turtles in Louisiana. CWN is committed to the humane care and treatment of injured, ill, or displaced marine animals in Louisiana and is the only entity in the state responsible for the rehabilitation of live marine mammals and sea turtles. The information CWN collects from stranded animals provides a snapshot into the health of the marine environment and provides a better understanding of threats to marine mammals and sea turtles in the wild.