Dolphin stranded after swimming up Colma Creek

People come to see wayward dolphin
July 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A bottlenose dolphin got stranded in South San Francisco Wednesday. It swam about a quarter-mile up Colma Creek and appeared to be unable to find its way back into the bay.

It was first spotted around 11:30 a.m. since which time, the Marine Mammal Center kept an eye on the dolphin, waiting to see if the dolphin would find its own way back into the bay. One volunteer went to go observe it as did a biologist from the Golden Gate Cetacean Research Institute. They said there was nothing obviously wrong with the dolphin, but were not sure why it had been swimming in circles and lingering in the canal.

The fire department came out to see if it could help and the curious came out hopeful for a glimpse.

"From what we see and in talking to experts on the phone, it appears that the animal is not in immediate distress. It doesn't appear like he's searching for food. It does look like he's in a playful nature and is able to exit when he feels like it," said South San Francisco Fire Capt. Devin Flannery. "At this time we're not finding any immediate need to intervene. We're going to let the animal choose its own path at this time."

On the East Coast, it's common for bottlenose dolphins to turn up in canals and shallow inlets looking for food. "Bottlenose dolphins are one of the few dolphins that will actually strand themselves searching for fish. If there's fish, they'll herd them towards the beach and they'll push them on the beach, and they'll actually go onto the beach and strand themselves and take the fish," explained researcher Izzy Szczepaniak. "So, the fact that they're in very shallow water is not necessarily a concern, but something like this, it's out of the ordinary."

Szczepaniak says the dolphins live to be about 30 to 40-years-old. There is a large population that lives in Monterey Bay and members of that group have been spotted further north toward the Bay Area.

The plan was to let the tide come in to its fullest, around 7 p.m., in the hopes that it would give the dolphin time to get out of the area before the threat of low tide. The dolphin was seen heading the right direction around 4 p.m.


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