Wayward dolphin dies after river rescue

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MYSTIC, Conn. (AP) – An Atlantic white-sided dolphin that swam up the Pawcatuck River on Thursday died overnight, despite intensive treatment from specialists at the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration.

The wayward dolphin, which was taken to the aquarium Thursday night when it became entangled in brush in the river near Westerly, R.I., was sicker than first thought and did not survive through the night, an aquarium spokesman said Friday.

Noris Bohachevsky, the aquarium’s curator for marine mammals and birds, said the dolphin was underweight and had some abrasions. It was so weak that the rescue team had to keep it afloat.

“There’s no way we should have been able to remove him from the water. That’s a sign something is wrong,” Bohachevsky told The Day of New London on Thursday night.

He said it was unusual for an Atlantic white-sided dolphin to travel alone up a river from the ocean, as the animals typically live in large groups.

Crowds had gathered throughout Thursday to watch the 6-foot-long dolphin swim up the river, which splits downtown Westerly and Pawcatuck, Conn.

Spectators and a member of the Mystic Aquarium’s rescue team said the dolphin appeared to be swimming normally Thursday morning, not listing or colliding with the riverbanks.

Shannon Saunders, a member of the aquarium’s stranding rescue team, surmised that the dolphin initially was healthy when it pursued a school of fish swimming upriver to spawn.

“They’re binge eaters,” she said. Often after filling up on herring or other fish, dolphins will relax by wandering around an area.

The dolphin’s condition worsened throughout the afternoon until it became entangled in brush around 7 p.m. Thursday, prompting aquarium specialists and the Westerly Ambulance Corps to rescue it and transport it to the aquarium.

Once there, they drew blood from its tail, and measured and weighed it before placing it in the pool. Rescue team members took turns through the chilly night standing in the water with the dolphin, but it was too weak and sick to survive until Friday morning.

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