Heartbroken mother dolphin won’t let go of her baby’s body

«Other dolphins joined her for short distances» 💔

Michael McCarthy was canoeing across the Intracoastal Waterway near St. Petersburg, Florida when he noticed the familiar flash of silver in the water ahead of him. A dolphin was swimming nearby and it appeared that he was cradling a small inert body.

At first, McCarthy thought the dolphin had just gotten his dinner, but as he watched, a heartbreaking scene unfolded before him.

“It took me a minute to accept what I was seeing when I first sighted the dolphin,” McCarthy, the owner of See Through Canoe Company, told The Dodo. “I wanted to believe it was a big redfish or something, but it quickly became apparent that it was a dead calf.”

McCarthy whipped out her camera and began filming the mother dolphin’s funeral procession. She nuzzled the body of her calf, stroking it in a dance of pain.

Luckily, she wasn’t alone. Another dolphin swam alongside her, in an apparent attempt to protect and comfort her friend. “As the mother headed north across the Intracoastal Waterway, other dolphins joined her for short distances and then continued on,” McCarthy said, “except for one dolphin who stayed with her mother the entire time.”

The calf appears to have been the victim of a speedboat collision, something McCarthy has witnessed all too often. “Judging by the scars on his calf, he was probably hit by a boat propeller,” McCarthy said. “I’ve spent most of my life in the water and a lot of time with manatees and dolphins, so unfortunately, I’m very familiar with what propeller wounds look like.”

That made McCarthy even more determined to capture the dolphin’s pain on film, in an effort to “help raise awareness of an issue I see all the time,” he noted.

A common misconception among boaters is that dolphins are “too fast to be shot,” notes McCarthy, but that’s not true. “Calves are even more vulnerable because they can’t swim as fast and have to surface much more frequently for air,” she added.

Previous studies suggest that cetaceans — dolphins and whales — exhibit mourning behaviors, particularly mothers who mourn their dead calves. McCarthy posted the video to Twitter last week and it has since been viewed over 76,000 times.

“It was really hard to watch,” McCarthy wrote on Twitter. “That image will be stuck in my head for a while.”

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