Dolphin Tales: Resident bottlenose dolphins
Many of our local bottlenose dolphins are members of resident communities that have been here for generations. A community could vary from around 50 to 200 dolphins and groups often have overlapping borders. Individual dolphins can be identified by their dorsal fins, which are as unique as fingerprints. They are easy to view in the wild because they live close to shore and are distributed throughout coastal and estuarine waters.
Dr. Randall Wells runs the Sarasota Dolphin Research Project. Al-though he started the project when he was just a teenager, it is now in its 50th year. It is the world’s longest running study of a wild bottlenose dolphin population. The research focuses on five generations of bottlenose dolphins that reside year round in Sarasota Bay. The study includes about 150 animals, most of which can be identified by Wells and his team of researchers.
Through tagging techniques, the project can track the dolphins. The information is used to create a detailed public database of wild resident dolphins, their movements, habits, families, individual and social characteristics.
Studying the dolphins has helped the project know how to protect them as well as make this information available to colleges and universities.
Bottlenose dolphins in the U.S. are not endangered or threatened, but they are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is illegal to feed, attempt to feed or harass wild dolphins.
Capt. Cathy Eagle has spent over 40 years boating in our local waters. As a professional charter captain she specializes in dolphin and nature tours. Visit CaptainCathy.com or call 239 994-2572.