On Tuesday, February 17, 2009, the IMMS Stranding Team received a report from the Harrison County Sand Beach department that there was a distressed dolphin located in the surf in Pass Christian. The first responders arrived on the scene to find a large dolphin struggling to swim out into deeper water. A bystander, who was present at the beach, reported that the dolphin had been struggling for over 2 hours. Apparently, the dolphin had tired quickly and was pushed toward the shore by the current. When it became evident that the dolphin could not maintain an upright position on its own, Stranding Team members on the scene entered the water to begin the rescue process.
Within minutes, the rest of the Stranding Team arrived with the transport vehicle. The nearly 600 lb. dolphin was positioned in a stretcher and, with assistance from onlookers and IMMS Volunteers, was carried across the beach and loaded into the transport vehicle. The dolphin made the short trip to the Center for Marine Education and Research located in Gulfport, MS, where the initial exam and triage was conducted. The dolphin was found to be an adult male approximately 9.5 ft long. There were no outward signs of physical injury but the dolphin had difficulty maintaining balance and buoyancy in the water. A floatation device was fashioned and placed around the dolphin’s midsection in order to assist in keeping the dolphin comfortably buoyant. IMMS staff and volunteers remained in the water around the clock to monitor the dolphin’s stability and help keep him afloat. The 24-hr watch continued for 3 days and despite the Institute’s best efforts, the dolphin passed away on the eve of Friday, February 20, 2009. A necropsy, or animal autopsy, was performed the next day and most results are still pending. However, test results for several significant infectious diseases, Morbillivirus, Brucellosis, and Bartonellosis, were all negative. Upon gross examination, there seemed to be pathological changes in the kidneys, brain, heart, and lungs. It was determined that the species of parasites found in the dolphin's stomach was a species that is usually found only in dolphins that inhabit deep water. Due to the animal’s large size and the parasites that were present, it is probable that the animal was from an offshore population of dolphins.