Stranded dolphin finally free from Simmons Bayou

Stranded dolphin finally free from Simmons Bayou
A team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport help lead the distressed dolphin to freedom Tuesday afternoon. (Photo source: WLOX)
A team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport help lead the distressed dolphin to freedom Tuesday afternoon. (Photo source: WLOX)
The dolphin's skin is peeling off due to the freshwater. (Photo source: Dr. Moby Solongi)
The dolphin's skin is peeling off due to the freshwater. (Photo source: Dr. Moby Solongi)

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - It took Jet Skis, noise makers and a special kind of net. That's what a team used Tuesday to save a distressed dolphin, which had been trapped in an Ocean Springs bayou for the past two weeks.

The rescue team included the Department of Marine Resources, NOAA and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

Their goal was to herd the wayward dolphin out of Simmons Bayou, where overexposure to fresh water caused lesions on the animal and general distress to its health.

Initially, the rescue team was skeptical the roundup would succeed.

"Because of all the twists and turns, the length, the distance. It was just kind of overwhelming," said Tim Hoffland, the director of training for IMMS.

"Two boats, two Jet Skis and yeah, we made a lot of noise, you know. We had metal pipes. We banged those in the water," said Dr. Jonathan Pitchford, a wildlife ecologist with IMMS who explained the rescue operation.

The noise was designed to direct the dolphin to the canal leading out of the bayou. A special kind of net barrier was also used.

"It was a hukilau net, which is just a long rope with ropes hanging down from it with weights to make it look like it's a barrier. It's a visual barrier, but the dolphin can't get caught in it, can't get wrapped up in it," Hoffland explained.

"We had some issues getting it unraveled, but once we got it unraveled, it really went like clockwork," said Pitchford.

The Jet Ski riders served as maritime cowboys, directing the dolphin.

"We just herded him like you would a sheep, and he just kept going and going in a nice straight line. Even when we got to the big bayou where we thought we'd lose him, we just kept going and going," said Hoffland.

According to Hoffland, the dolphin even managed to pick up a little company on its journey to the Mississippi Sound.

"We managed to get him within two miles of the Ocean Springs Bridge, and he met up with another dolphin. It was at that point that we just stopped, and we just let them go," Hoffland recalled.

"We did a good job today," Pitchford added.

The rescue team said they expect the distressed dolphin will make a full recovery now that it's back in the Mississippi Sound.

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