Day-Old Dolphin Stranded Alone in Surf Died in Peace With Help of Beachgoer

A baby dolphin stranded in the Texas surf was able to die peacefully thanks to a beachgoer who stayed to comfort it.

A woman found the newborn bottlenose calf—which was only 24 to 48 hours old— stranded in Galveston, the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said in a Facebook post.

The beachgoer "quietly knelt beside the dolphin," keeping its body upright to ensure the dolphin could breathe easily. She called the stranding network and stayed with the calf while waiting for rescue teams to arrive.

"She kept the dolphin's skin cool and wet so that it didn't overheat and she stayed with the dolphin until professionals arrived," the stranding network said. "Although this dolphin was a very fragile age and ultimately died on the beach, she was as comfortable as possible, without unnecessary added stressors, during her final hours thanks to the woman who found her."

It is not uncommon for marine wildlife to become stranded, but the cause largely remains a mystery to scientists. Some smaller dolphins may become stranded because they have ventured into shallow waters after being hunted by predators. Sickness or injury can also cause marine wildlife to strand, although it is not clear whether this calf was hurt.

Stranded dolphin calf
The woman stayed with the dolphin calf until teams arrived to help. Courtesy of Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Heidi Whitehead of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network told Newsweek that it is not uncommon for them to find stranded dolphins during this time of year, as it is the bottlenose dolphin calving season along the Texas coast.

"We see a portion of young animals that do not survive or a portion that may become separated from mom. The dolphin was transported to the [network's] Galveston lab for a complete exam and necropsy and we are awaiting results," Whitehead said.

The stranding network highlighted the incident in contrast with another stranding that occurred last week, where a dolphin was found on Quintana Beach.

However, in this incident, beachgoers harassed the dolphin instead, to the point where it died before the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network could arrive.

When beachgoers found the stranded dolphin they attempted to push it back to sea, where they then tried to ride and swim with her. After she was stranded again, a crowd of people continued to harass her on the beach.

"We understand that in some cases there are well-meaning individuals who may think the appropriate course of action is to get a stranded dolphin back into the water, however, it is not the best course of action," Whitehead said. "Dolphins strand because they are sick or injured and will most likely drown if returned to sea or re-strand in worse condition. The best course of action for the public to take when they find a dolphin stranded on the beach is to contact their local stranding responders immediately, stay with the dolphin on the beach and apply the first aid tips that responders provide."

Referring to the more recent incident involving the dolphin calf, the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network said on Facebook that beachgoers did "everything right," unlike the previous example.

The woman had not "pushed the young exhausted dolphin back out to sea, where it likely would have struggled to swim and breathe," the network said.

"She did NOT pet or stroke the dolphin, or pull at her fins or flippers," the network said.

This article has been updated to include quotes from Heidi Whitehead