- Posted April 29, 2012 by
Huntington Beach, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Photo essays: Your stories in pictures
DOLPHIN VISITS BOLSA CHICA WETLANDS & CREATES A STIR!
In the summer of 2006, naturalists rejoiced when seawater began flowing into the restored wetland area for the first time in over 100 years! The Bolsa Chica wetland restoration was the largest coastal wetland restorations ever undertaken in Southern California & has turned out to be a true success story in the rehabilitation of a debilitated coastal zone.
For the past several days, a friendly visitor has been hanging around the Boca Chica wetlands and creating quite a stir. A common dolphin has become an unwitting attraction after it chased its dinner into the shallows of the Orange County lagoon & got stuck this past Friday.
Crowds of people have gathered among the rocky shoreline to marvel at the sprightly mammal, who seems to be in otherwise good health The dolphin has also caught the attention of passing motorists on a busy highway, who pulled over to watch the 700-pound animal circle around.
Marine mammal experts say the black-and-white common dolphin was sighted with his pod offshore & was chasing fish when it entered the narrow channel through a tidal hole gate separating Huntington Harbor from the marsh.
Later Friday, the LA Times reported that "on Friday, human spectators scared the confused dolphin into staying in the shallow waters of Bolsa Chica Wetlands," wildlife officials said. On Saturday, another group of dolphins chased the poor dolphin back into the wetlands nature preserve as rescuers attempted to guide it back out to open sea.
Peter Wallerstein, a marine biologist with the Marine Animal Rescue service does not seem to be too worried about the mammal as he is about the crowds gawking at it. As he & other dolphin experts monitored the animal’s condition, Wallerstein warned the crowds to stay away from the dolphin so as to reduce any stress on the animal.
“We just want people to be smart,” Wallerstein said. “If they go & observe, be quiet & don’t get involved or get in the water.”
Wallerstein & five state Department of Fish and Game officers took paddle boards out Saturday morning. They attempted to "encourage the 7-foot dolphin to continue swimming to freedom after they noticed that it had swum several hundred yards closer to Huntington Harbor," said the LA Times, which leads to the ocean.
The group successfully managed to guide the dolphin farther into the harbor until the creature saw the other group of dolphins swimming in circles ahead of it.
Appearing frightened, the skittish dolphin turned around & dived deep into the harbor, swimming quickly beneath the paddle-boarders & a bridge, then back again into the wetlands. Wallenstein said the stranded dolphin does not seem to be ill & appeared to be strong & healthy and capable of escaping the lagoon on his own. “He proved he can get out if he wants to. There are no red flags. I’m not concerned,” he told the LA Times.
Rescuers from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center decided against capturing the dolphin & putting it in a harness to carry it out to the open sea because it appeared to be healthy. But Calif. Dept. of Fish & Game Patrol Captain Dan Sforza told the Orange County Register that "trying to capture a dolphin can be dangerous & usually dolphins in unexpected waters can find their way out."
"We'll do nothing as long as it remains healthy & appears to be feeding," said Sforza. "It's healthy & swimming around. It knows how to get out & doesn't choose to."
Whatever the reason for the spring dolphin visit, the spry mammal appears to be captivating a large crowd of charmed on-lookers as he circumnavigates the lagoon.