Rare bottlenose dolphin reported in Puget Sound

UPDATE, Sunday, Feb. 6:

I’m sorry to report that the bottlenose dolphin we’ve been talking about recently was found dead on a beach near Nisqually. The dead dolphin was spotted Tuesday in the area where it was last seen alive and swimming two weeks previously.

John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research reported that an examination of the animal on Thursday failed to reveal any obvious cause of death. The dolphin was thin, but it clearly did not starve to death. Significant skin lesions were evident, and examiners found hemorrhaging around the jaw. That would be consistent with what would have occurred from thrashing around on the beach.

The animal was a male who had not yet reached maturity.

Tissue samples were fresh enough to be sent away for microscopic examination, and tests will help determine the dolphin’s toxic load. Such pathology may or many not help determine the cause of death.
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Cascadia Research is reporting a series of sightings of a bottlenose dolphin in Puget Sound — something that nobody expects to see in the cool waters of the Northwest.

A rare bottlenose dolphin has been sighted swimming around in the cool waters of Puget Sound.
Photo by Josh Oliver, courtesy of WDFW and Cascadia Research.

Does anybody remember Flipper from the television show in the 1960s? Of course, Flipper was a bottlenose dolphin, a creature normally found in tropical waters.

John Calambokidis of Cascadia reports that the dolphin was first spotted in mid-December around the Port of Tacoma. Since then, sightings have been reported in the Redondo Beach near Des Moines and most recently in Budd Inlet near Olympia, where the animal was seen starting Sunday.

Along the West Coast, bottlenose dolphins are typically seen as far north as Central California. Check out the map of its normal range from the American Cetacean Society.

John said he is aware of only two other occurrences of bottlenose dolphins in Puget Sound. The first was an adult male that washed up dead in Samish Bay near Bellingham in 1988. The other one showed up early last year and was seen in various places in South Puget Sound during June. It was assumed that this was the same animal that washed up dead near Steilacoom in Pierce County on July 18.

The dolphin traveling about Puget Sound at this time appears to be in a reasonably fit condition, according to a report on Cascadia’s website, but it does have some kind of skin condition. Cascadia, along with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network, are continuing to monitor the animal’s movements and condition.

Anyone who spots the dolphin is asked to call Cascadia at (360) 943-7325 or toll-free (800) 747-7329.

Photo by Josh Oliver, courtesy of WDFW and Cascadia Research.

6 thoughts on “Rare bottlenose dolphin reported in Puget Sound

  1. I was hunting in the nisqually reach and spotted one of these bottlenose dolphin’s today.(1-18-11) It was down the Mc Calister creek.

  2. UPDATE, Sunday, Feb. 6:

    I’m sorry to report that the bottlenose dolphin we’ve been talking about recently was found dead on a beach near Nisqually. The dead dolphin was spotted Tuesday in the area where it was last seen alive and swimming two weeks previously.

    John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research reported that an examination of the animal on Thursday failed to reveal any obvious cause of death. The dolphin was thin, but it clearly did not starve to death. Significant skin lesions were evident, and examiners found hemorrhaging around the jaw. That would be consistent with what would have occurred from thrashing around on the beach.

    The animal was a male who had not yet reached maturity.

    Tissue samples were fresh enough to be sent away for microscopic examination, and tests will help determine the dolphin’s toxic load. Such pathology may or many not help determine the cause of death.

  3. I saw some dolphins (4 i believe) swimming between the west side of camano island and whidbey island this afternoon, march 6.

  4. Was on the 3pm Seattle to Bremerton ferry yesterday, and in the Sound near Restoration point, saw three dolphins moving fast through the water off to the rear of the ship. They surfaced about five times, two side by side and one trailing behind closely, before disappearing altogether. This came up in conversation this morning, and after some online queries I found your site. Hope this is helpful.

  5. I have been seeing a group of 3 or 4 dolphins behind mcneil island for at least the last 4 years. They are black in color and small, maybe 40 or 50 lbs. Also have seen another group near fox island. I have seen this same group near mcneil island maybe 15 times. They always appear close to shore on the west side passage.

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