JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – An injured baby dolphin spotted in the Intracoastal Waterway has Jacksonville Beach residents and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concerned.
The FWC received calls last Saturday about a mother dolphin swimming in the Intracoastal waters with her calf, who has what appears to be a laceration on its tail several inches deep.
Because the calf is keeping up with its mom, for now, FWC biologists said they are not intervening, but they will continue to track the calf.
"We ask folks please not to get too close, not to intervene, just stay back so mom can keep up with calf," said Nadia Gordon, a Marine Mammal Research Biologist with the FWC. "We don't want to break up the mom-calf bond at this point, and too many people getting too close can actually affect them."
Along with asking boaters to keep their distance from the dolphin family, the FWC asks anyone who spots the injured calf to contact the FWC as quickly as possible.
"That's helpful if people can give us the info, so we can respond in a timely manner and tell us in real time," Gordon said. "So when you're on the water, if you can make these calls, that's helpful, instead of waiting hours until you get back."
One of the people who initially reported the injured calf to the FWC was boat captain and restaurant owner Joshua Shrutt.
"We were so surprised when we saw the injured dolphin," Shrutt said. "It appears over three-quarters of its tail is severed and hanging behind its body."
Shrutt owns Old Florida Fish Camp on the water between the bridges for Atlantic and Beach boulevards. He also captains boat tours and has seen the calf on the water several times with its mother.
He said he's keeping a close eye on this young dolphin and praying for a speedy recovery, adding it's tough to see this calf struggle.
"The baby sticks right next to the side of the mother, generally breastfeeding off the mom, and we've noticed this particular dolphin with its severed back tail struggling to keep up with the mom and dive down deep with the mom when the mom dives down," Shrutt said.
FWC officials said they don't know how the calf was injured, but they said it could have been from fishing line or a boat.
They are asking for boaters to be responsible when they're on the water and to remember how much marine life is out here. They said to stay 50 feet away from animals, avoid feeding them, and properly discard any fishing line, netting or other gear.
The hotline for boaters to call if they spot the baby dolphin is 1-888-404-FWCC.