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'We're letting him do his own thing'

Dolphin still splashing around the Bolsa Chica wetlands. Rescue crews are letting him find his own way back to sea.

May 02, 2012|By Michael Miller and Tony Barboza
  • A dolphin swims in the Bolsa Chica wetlands near Warner Avenue and PCH on Tuesday. The dolphin, which has been around there for several days, may have been bullied and prevented from leaving by its fellow dolphins, according to one specialist.
A dolphin swims in the Bolsa Chica wetlands near Warner… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

When a dolphin swam into Bolsa Chica sometime before noon Friday, the wetlands got a surprise visitor.

Now, they may have an unintended mascot. Five days and many media stories later, the dolphin still hadn't left the water near Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

Jim Milbury, a spokesman for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, said the animal was still splashing about Wednesday.

"When I went by this morning, about 6 a.m., he was still there," Milbury said.

Authorities, he said, had stuck with their plan to let the dolphin leave when it's ready.

"We're letting him do his own thing," Milbury said. "You can't always tell what their health is just by looking at them, but from what we can see, he's healthy."

Kelly O'Reilly, a biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game, urged people to observe the dolphin from marked trails and not venture into the water.

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"It is a wild animal, after all, and wild animals can become unpredictable," she said.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has final authority over whether and how the dolphin is removed from Bolsa Chica, O'Reilly said.

The dolphin may have been bullied and prevented from leaving by fellow dolphins, according to one marine mammal rescue specialist on the scene earlier in the week.

When rescue crews on paddleboards tried to help the common dolphin out of the Huntington Beach nature reserve and into the open ocean Saturday, it was aggressively attacked by small group of peers thrashing in the water and was forced back into the wetlands, said Peter Wallerstein, director of the El Segundo-based Marine Animal Rescue.

"He was scared, he was intimidated, he was bullied," he said.

"Dolphins can be very aggressive toward each other," Wallerstein added. "They're not the sweet, loving, gentle animals portrayed by the movies and the cartoons. They do have a dark side."

That behavior played into the decision by crews Monday to hang back and let the dolphin return to the sea on its own rather than try to guide it into a possible confrontation.

On Monday afternoon, the dolphin could be seen feeding on fish. The animal has a way out of the wetlands even at low tide, rescue crews said. But for whatever reason, it had chosen to stay.

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