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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

A nice try
Leslie Fry and Robert Oliver fought to keep a wounded and dying spotted black dolphin afloat off 33rd Street in Holmes Beach. They were joined by others in helping bring the dolphin ashore. Islander Photo: Courtesy Suzi Fox

Wounded dolphin beached in Holmes Beach, dies

Visitors, police and Islanders gave it their desperate best, but a dolphin was too severely wounded to survive. It died in their arms. The spotted black dolphin was seen to be in trouble in Gulf waters just off 33rd Street, Holmes Beach, Sunday, May 30, and Leslie Fry and Robert Oliver struggled to keep it afloat until help arrived.

A Holmes Beach police patrol boat couldn't come into the shallow water, but the officer radioed headquarters to alert rescue agencies. The dispatcher called Suzi Fox, Turtle Watch director who handles stranded turtles.

Fox arrived with turtle rescue equipment and took a sheet out to the two rescuers, hoping to keep the animal wet and prevent sunburn. They held its breathing hole above water despite the dolphin's weakening struggles.

Police officers helped Mote Marine Laboratory rescuers through the heavy Sunday traffic. Dr. Charles Manire, Mote veterinarian, and his crew got the dolphin aboard their rescue truck.

It stopped breathing about this point, said Fox, and Manire swiftly supervised getting it onto a stretcher and back into the water. "He injected it to get its heart beating again," Fox said. "But we were just too late and our dolphin was too sick."

Fox said there was a five-inch gash in the dolphin's side under its dorsal fin, a "cookie cutter" kind of wound made by something Fox and Manire couldn't identify. They did rule out the usual culprits, boat propellers and sharks.

"I could see the muscle tissue," Fox said. "It should have been red and it was white. That tells me the dolphin had lost a lot of blood or was anemic, maybe from infection from the wound."

It was a nasty moment for everyone, she said. Oliver was here from the Orlando area on vacation, and Fry had just driven here from Michigan and had gone to the beach for a nap.

"I'll tell you," Fox said, "holding that lovely young animal in my arms while it was taking its last breath was hard."