|Species: Bottlenose Dolphin,
Age Class: Adult
Date of Stranding: Reported November 2008
Location of Stranding: Cameron Parish, LA
Duration of care at TMMSN:
Final Disposition: Released March 17, 2009
A dolphin in a
lake just east of the Louisiana line in Cameron Parish, LA was
initially reported to the TMMSN in November 2008, but had no doubt
been trapped there since the storm surge of Hurricane Ike brought it
inshore in September 2008. After the first report, the TMMSN
responded by airboat and surveyed the lake for several hours but was
unable to spot Lucky. A second survey shortly thereafter by mudboat
proved to be more productive and the animal was spotted surfacing
near the boat and by a garbage dumpster that had settled in the lake
due to the storm. At that time the fog was very dense however, with
only about 10-15 feet of visibility, and we were unable to take
photographs. It was probably only by chance that we happened to see
the dolphin, or perhaps his interest in what were doing drew him in
to us. A third survey by the Audubon Society of New Orleans yielded
similar results, with the dolphin being spotted only briefly in the
Mud Lake is a shallow (2-3 feet) boggy-bottom horseshoe-shaped body of water that is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by a small two lane highway and a few yards of beach. The total area of the lake was estimated at 2-3 square miles. After a thorough examination of the topography and the area around the lake, it was determined that the dolphin would not be able to escape back to the Gulf of Mexico on his own. It was noted during the surveys that there was an abundance of fish in Mud Lake and the consensus of all professionals involved was that Lucky was eating fish and able to meet his caloric needs until a large scale rescue attempt for this large body of water could be organized.
Calling on the "Luck of the Irish", a rescue effort was arranged for St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2009 consisting of four main parties: the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN), the Louisiana Marine Mammal Stranding Network (Audubon Society), the National Marine Fisheries Agency from Florida, and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. A fifth party contractor was also involved to assist with the capture in the large body of water. Rescue day was colder than expected, but it was fairly clear and the cold front held back the fog. Based on previous sightings, the search for the dolphin, now named Lucky for the day of his rescue, began around the same garbage dumpster where he had been spotted before. Support boats fanned out and approached the site prepared for a long day searching for the dolphin. Much to everyone's surprise, within 15 minutes Lucky was spotted! The net was deployed and Lucky was was surrounded by the net within the next 15-20 minutes at which point, experienced personnel then entered the water and safely captured him by hand so that neither the animal nor the rescuers were injured or caught in the nets.
After loading Lucky onto a flat-bottom mudboat, he was transported back to the boat dock for examination by the Audubon Society veterinarian. After a thorough external examination and analysis of blood with a mobile blood analyzer, Lucky was deemed fit for release. He was transferred to the TMMSN rescue truck and we made the short 1/4 mile trip to the beach where we were able to release Lucky successfully and uneventfully.
We want to thank the TMMSN volunteers, the LMMSN staff and volunteers, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Apache Oil Company (owners of the land), and the NMFS for their support and assistance in the rescue.
DOM & LUCKY:
Months earlier, another dolphin, nicknamed Dom, was reported to be stranded out-of-habitat and was rescued by TMMSN very near to where we rescued Lucky. See Dom's page for more information on his rescue.