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Press Register Article by Ryan Dezember- November 13, 2009
Dolphin Washed Ashore by Tropical Storm Ida Rescued by Scientists

GULF SHORES, Ala. -- As far as anyone can tell, no one in Alabama or Mississippi was swept out to sea by Tropical Storm Ida.

But Monday night's storm did force a denizen of the sea ashore.

A jogger spotted a stranded Atlantic bottlenose dolphin at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores shortly after the weather cleared Tuesday morning, said Refuge Manager Jereme Phillips.

The dolphin was being treated Thursday at The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, a Gulfport research facility that responds to dolphins stranded in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Moby Solangi, the institute's executive director, said this dolphin is suffering from pneumonia, dehydration and parasites.

Biologists from the institute arrived at the Fort Morgan sanctuary about 5 p.m. Tuesday and had the dolphin, which the storm surge had forced about 150 yards up the beach, in Gulfport later that night.

"He's doing pretty good," Solangi said. "He was pretty disoriented and pretty lethargic. He was out of the water for many hours."

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins usually travel in pods of four to six animals, with several pods constituting a herd.

In the spring and summer, they usually spend time closer to shore to feed and breed. In the fall, they move into deeper, warmer water. As such, dolphin strandings are rare along the northern Gulf Coast this time of year, Solangi said. Then again, so are tropical storms.

Solangi said the dolphin was probably already ill when it was separated from his pod in the turbulent seas.

In a way, the 190-pound dolphin's stranding may have helped him: Phillips said that while as many as six dolphin corpses wash onto refuge beaches each year, there hasn't been a living one stranded there in at least seven years. Usually, a sick dolphin separated from its pod would simply die in the Gulf and drift ashore later, he said.

Solangi said the dolphin will be returned to the Gulf if it's deemed "healthy enough and able to find his pod."

If it's too young or otherwise unable to survive at sea, Solangi said, it will go to an aquarium.

By Ryan Dezember

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