Record year for dolphin calves

Dolphin calf
A dolphin calf and mother in Sarasota Bay. - Mote Marine | Submitted

More dolphin calves have been born in Sarasota Bay so far this year than in any of the past 47 years, according to the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

Nineteen births have been documented so far in the bay, which five generations of resident dolphins call home.

Newborns weigh between 30 to 45 pounds and are typically born tail first, according to the SDRP.

Female dolphins from 6 to 48 years old have given birth in the bay, including the oldest known bottlenose dolphin, Nicklo, now 67.

Dolphins are pregnant for 12 and a half months and their labor lasts between 45 minutes to a few hours. Researchers have noted local dolphins having up to 10 calves in their lifetime. Paternity testing has shown males to have sired up to six calves each in the bay.

In keeping with baby dolphins being called “calves,” female dolphins are known as “cows” and males are “bulls.” They swim in pods, however, not herds.

Researchers began studying Sarasota Bay dolphins in 1970 under the sponsorship of Mote Marine Laboratory and the Chicago Zoological Society. It is the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population.

The SDRP asks boaters to be especially careful of newborn dolphins, which lack the skills and experience to avoid boats and have to surface more frequently to breathe than older dolphins. Mothers can also be more distracted with newborns and cannot always get out of the way of approaching boats. Dolphins along the central west coast of Florida frequent shallow waters where they may be unable to dive below approaching boats.

Dolphin Tips

DO

  • Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins when viewing from a vessel or watercraft.
  • Limit time spent observing dolphins to 30 minutes or less.
  • Avoid making loud or sudden noises near dolphins.
  • Move away slowly if a dolphin’s behavior indicates the animal is stressed or disturbed.
  • Book wild dolphin viewing tours with businesses that responsibly view dolphins in the wild and help dolphin conservation. See Facebook “Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins” and “Dolphin SMART.”
  • Put your vessel’s engine in neutral if in the close vicinity of dolphins.
  • Call for help if you hook a dolphin on a fishing line or see a stranded or injured dolphin –  Mote Marine’s Stranding Investigations Program, 941-988-0212.

DON’T

  • Pursue, swim with, pet or touch wild dolphins, even if they approach you.
  • Feed or attempt to feed wild dolphins.
  • Encircle or entrap dolphins with vessels.
  • Direct a vessel or accelerate toward dolphins with the intent of creating a pressure wake to bow or wake-ride.
  • Separate mother/calf pairs.
  • Drive watercraft through or over groups of dolphins.