Michael McCarthy was canoeing on the Intracoastal Waterway near St. Petersburg, Florida, when he saw the familiar flash of silver in the water ahead of him. A dolphin swam nearby and seemed to cradle a small inert body.
At first McCarthy thought the dolphin had just caught his dinner, but as he watched, a harrowing scene unfolded before him.
“It took me a minute to accept what I was seeing when I first saw the dolphin,” McCarthy, owner of the See Through Canoe Company, told The Dodo. “I wanted to believe it was a big redfish or something, but I immediately realized it was a dead hatchling”
McCarthy pulled out his camera and began filming the dolphin’s mother’s funeral procession. She caressed the body of her calf in a dance of pain.
Luckily, she was not alone. A dolphin swam alongside her, in an apparent effort to protect and comfort her friend. “As the mother headed north through the Intracoastal Waterway, other dolphins joined her for short distances and then followed her path,” McCarthy said, “except for one dolphin that stayed with the mother the whole time. time”
The pup appeared to have been the victim of an encounter with a motorboat, something McCarthy has witnessed all too often. “Judging by the scars on the calf, it was probably hit by a boat propeller,” McCarthy said. “I have spent most of my life in the water and a lot of time around manatees and dolphins, so unfortunately I am very familiar with what propeller wounds look like”
This made McCarthy even more determined to film the dolphin’s pain, in an effort to “help raise awareness about a problem that I see all the time,” he said.
Mother #dolphin unwilling to release her dead calf and pushing her down the intracoastal waterway.
It’s hard to say for sure without an exam, but the hatchling may have been hit by a boat. Please don’t assume that because #dolphins are fast you won’t hit them. #sad pic.twitter.com/Le2MAwvPIB
– See Through Canoe (@SeeThroughCanoe) 3 de junio de 2019
A common misconception among boaters is that dolphins are “too fast to be beaten,” McCarthy notes, but that’s simply not true. “The hatchlings are even more vulnerable because they can’t swim as fast and have to surface much more frequently for air,” she adds.
Previous studies suggest that cetaceans – dolphins and whales – show mourning behaviors, especially mothers who mourn the death of their young.
McCarthy posted the video to Twitter last week, and it has since been viewed more than 76,000 times.
“It was really hard to watch,” McCarthy wrote on Twitter. “That image is going to stick in my head for a while”