Scientist work to save stranded dolphin

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

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Spotting dolphins along the Nansemond River is not unusual. However, one in Bennett’s Creek near Bridge Road in North Suffolk is a strange occurrence.

Scientists from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center have been working now for weeks to try to help this stranded dolphin move down Bennett’s Creek and back out into its normal habitat.

Senior Scientist Alexander M. Costidis, Ph.D., with the Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response and Biomedical Research unit, said they are not sure why it made its way up the creek.

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“The dolphin presumably swam up river from the Nansemond River,” Costidis said in a Tuesday interview. “They occasionally do such things. We don’t always know why. Sometimes it’s due to disease, sometimes it’s behavioral.”

Scientists are most concerned about it being there because Bennett’s Creek contains fresh water.

“Their skin is not designed for fresh water,” he said.

Costidis said they have gradually ramped up efforts to try to get it back to the Nansemond. 

So far, nothing has worked.

“The most recent effort was a week ago when we tried to herd it down river using specialized equipment,” he said. “The dolphin was unaffected by those efforts and determined to stay in that spot.”

Costidis said they are working to find other options to get the dolphin to return to the Nansemond River and hopefully back out to the ocean.

“Please know that we care and are consulting with our federal partners and experts in dolphin capture methods in order to do this as safely as possible,” he said.

The stranded dolphin has received a lot of attention and concern from Suffolk residents. But scientists urge people to leave it alone.

“Yes, please stay away from the dolphin. We understand that people are concerned. We are also very concerned,” Costidis said. “While we cannot guarantee that this animal will survive, we are making extensive plans to attempt a capture in what is a tricky location. We hope that we can get this dolphin rescued in time while still ensuring the safety of all of the rescue crews.”

He said scientists and those working to save the dolphin appreciate all of the concern people have expressed.