PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - A young dolphin that was found stranded in a canal at Henderson Point three weeks ago is finally back in safer waters. Federal, state and local agencies rescued the animal Tuesday morning and released it into the Mississippi Sound. The dolphin's chances of survival had reached a critical stage.
Researchers hovered over the helpless female dolphin, running all sorts of tests, from an ultrasound to a biopsy. The last step was putting a satellite tag on her dorsal fin.
"This is the first time we've been able to put a satellite tag. Now we can track where it's going. Will it find its pod? It'll help us answer a lot of difficult questions," said IMMS Director Dr. Moby Solangi.
Questions over the two-year-old dolphin's health have troubled the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies since the animal somehow ended up in a canal at Henderson Point.
"She was starting to show a little bit of freshwater lesions. Their skin will start to get kind of funky the longer they're in freshwater and they'll start to get infections from that," said NOAA Fisheries Biologist Carrie Sinclair.
With water temperatures and salinity levels dropping, NOAA decided it was time to rescue the distressed dolphin. Using large nets, several boats, and dive teams, they were able to corral the dolphin within 40-minutes.
"It was incredible! This was a great rescue," said Solangi.
"She seemed to be in pretty good shape, so you always want to try to get them back out in their habitat," said Sinclair.
Divers and animal trainers carried the dolphin across the beach in Pass Christian and released it into safer waters.
"Hopefully, she knows where she is, and can figure out where she needs to go to find food and hopefully, stay in saltier water, stay out of canals," said Sinclair.
"It's a wonderful experience. It's a successful story, and we just hope this animal really finds its pod and survives," said Solangi.
Using the satellite tag, NOAA and IMMS will track the dolphin's movement over the next six months. The battery on the tag lasts about six months and the device should fall off after that.
Other agencies that assisted in the dolphin rescue included the State Department of Marines Resources, Mississippi State University, the Gulfport Fire Department Dive Team, and the Harrison County Sheriff's Department.