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Wayward dolphin Bolsa Chica wetland escape short-lived

April 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A wayward dolphin is back in the Bolsa Chica wetlands after it made a short-lived dash for the ocean Saturday.

Biologists paddled out to guide the dolphin toward a bridge near Warner Avenue Saturday morning. The dolphin went under the bridge but after getting about 200 yards into the harbor, he encountered other dolphins and raced back to the wetlands.

"We did find that he or she can get out even at low tide," said Peter Wallerstein of the Marine Animal Rescue. "It's a strong swimming animal, no signs of distress, but it is a little disoriented being in this area."

Experts remain in the monitoring mode and will respond to the dolphin if necessary. They ask on-lookers to not make too much noise or do anything to make the dolphin anxious.

Officials say the dolphin appears healthy and did not seem to be agitated. They said the adult common dolphin weighs about 400 pounds, though earlier its weight was estimated to be 700 pounds.

The dolphin came about 300 yards north from his previous position Friday, making it closer to where it needs to get to exit the wetlands.

At sundown Friday, the mammal was seen closer to the tide channels, but it appeared to have moved closer to the bridge and toward the harbor where it can reach open water.

Wallerstein says he hopes the dolphin finds its way out without intervention.

"If we saw any labored breathing, any kind of illness, any signs of injury, then we would be more aggressive on trying to rescue this animal and getting him out of here, but you don't want to intervene if you don't have to for the benefit of the animal and for the benefit and safety of the rescuers," Wallerstein said.

He added that rescue crews will continue to monitor the dolphin through the day.

If rescue becomes necessary, crews have a harness ready to help the dolphin get back out into open waters.

There's also the possibility of tapping metal poles underwater and using the high-pitched sound to guide the animal out of the wetlands.

At least six other dolphins were seen swimming in Huntington Harbour on Friday, just west of Warner Avenue. Officials believe the dolphins have been in the harbor area since Wednesday feeding on fish, but the wayward dolphin strayed away from its family, swimming underneath a bridge at Warner Avenue.

See photos of the wayward dolphin in the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach.

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