Dolphin With Big Chunk Missing From Back Likely Bitten by Shark

A dolphin has been spotted swimming off the coast of South Carolina with a huge wound on its back that may have been the result of a shark attack.

Susan Trogdon, a member of the public, captured images of the dolphin on May 16 in Port Royal Sound, near Parris Island. One of the photos was posted to Facebook on Wednesday by South Carolina non-profit organization Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network, which works to protect marine mammals in the region.

The image shows the dolphin swimming with a large chunk, shaped like a half circle, missing from its back. The network said that the dolphin's injuries indicated that it may have been attacked by a shark.

"We suspect this dolphin may have been the target of a shark attack," the non-profit said in a Facebook post. "Sharks don't necessarily prey on dolphins except possibly young or weak animals (easy targets.)"

The non-profit suggested in the post that there was a possibility that the dolphin might be able to survive, despite its severe injuries.

"Dolphins have an incredible ability to heal, especially in salt water. We don't have anymore information on this animal but hope he's on the road to recovery."

A Facebook user in the comments suggested that the situation was not looking good for the dolphin, and asked whether the animal could recover from such a bite.

"It's hard to say," the non-profit said in response. "It's a good sign it's swimming around but would definitely be a long recovery."

The non-profit's executive Lauren Rust told McClatchy News that the shape of the wound indicates that a shark was responsible for the injury.

Several large shark species can be found in the waters off South Carolina, including great whites, tiger sharks and mako sharks.

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"I would mostly think of white sharks as the ones preying on young, sick or sleeping dolphins," Rust said.

"We do get white sharks a distance off our coast and it's possible this was an offshore dolphin pod. We do get bull sharks, they are more of a coastal shark and can be aggressive."

Trogdon told McClatchy that the injured dolphin was part of a "huge" pod numbering perhaps 30 individuals.

"I didn't realize how bad [the injury] was until I downloaded the photos. It was very sad to see the size of the wound and how deep it was," Trogdon said. "I was hoping to see it again, as I kayak a lot and see the same pods over and over."

A bottlenose dolphin
Stock image showing a bottlenose dolphin in South Carolina waters. A dolphin with a suspected shark bite was recently spotted in the region. iStock