SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It’s an unusual sighting: a dolphin that has called a Virginia creek home for more than three weeks. Many people hiking along a nearby trail have routinely seen it, including Jack Evans. He called it unusual.
“It’s been in this area in [Bennett’s Creek] surfacing in the same spot now for over three weeks and it’s concerning,” he said.
Marine scientists share the same concern.
Alexander Costidis, senior scientist of the Stranding Response Program at the Virginia Aquarium, said it’s not trapped by mud or by a rope, but by its own mind after being bullied by other dolphins in the ocean.
“This dolphin probably got beat up by other dolphins, which caused it to escape into the river,” Costidis said.
He said teams have been up to the creek five different times, three of those actively trying to coax it out. Nothing has worked so far.
“Seeing if we can encourage it with noise and kayaks to swim back down. We tried that. It didn’t work.”
Some might ask — why the urgency? Costidis said it’s because dolphins are not made to be in freshwater. He made a trip to check on the dolphin Friday morning and already started to see lesions on its skin.
“The freshwater is our biggest concern. Their skin is not designed to be in freshwater, and eventually, it starts to break down and… bacteria starts to colonize its skin.”
Their last effort is to try and physically remove it. He said it’s extremely dangerous for the dolphin.
“Net captures are very dangerous for dolphins as well,” said Costidis. “These aren’t air-breathing animals. If it gets tangled up in a net and the net is snagged on a tree down at the bottom, it could easily drown.”
He said crews can also get hurt in the process. According to the National Aquarium, dolphins can weigh up to 800 pounds. If that gets thrown around in a rescue attempt, people can get seriously hurt.
He had a message for people who might see it on their usual hike: please don’t do anything to stress it out even more — including getting in the water with it. Those who may see anything unusual in the area are asked to call their Stranding Hotline at (757) 385-7575.