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Dolphin washes up in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Parks Canada says the dolphin likely beached itself to avoid being eaten by killer whales

A Pacific white-sided dolphin was discovered on a beach within the southern end of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (PRNPR) on Nov. 4.

PRNPR marine ecologist Jennifer Yakimishyn said the dolphin was still alive when Parks Canada staff and members of Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society (SIMRS) arrived on site to do an assessment.

“It was alive, but there was a lot of blood in the area and there were some injuries on the animal,” said Yakimishyn.

She told the Westerly that likely what had happened was a predatory incident with a killer whale.

“The way that (killer whales) attack their prey is they basically ram into them. It likely beached itself to avoid predation,” she said.

SIMRS executive director Karyssa Arnett said the dolphin was still vocalizing and thrashing about when they first arrived on scene.

“It was clearly in distress,” said Arnett.

The team made the call to try refloat the 160-pound, male dolphin with a sling.

“We immediately moved into our training mode and were able to get it into a sling within a matter of a few minutes and then our team of five took it down to the water,” said SIMRS executive director Karyssa Arnett, noting that they were all wearing drysuits for the rescue attempt.

“We waited out there (in the water) with it for about 30 minutes, but within that 30 minutes we could see that steady decline of its state and by the end of it unfortunately we could tell that it was no longer starting to breath and eventually we decided to make that tough call,” said Arnett.

By the time the team brought the dolphin back on to the beach, it had passed.

No necropsy was necessary, according to Yakimishyn, and the dolphin carcass was left to support the other wildlife in the area.

“If the wolves find it, it’ll will be gone in a couple days,” said Yakimishyn.

Parks Canada encourages beachgoers to report marine mammal sightings.

“We did have a Parks visitor report (the dolphin). If you do see an injured, entangled, or dead marine mammal on any of your beaches, particularly PRNPR, we ask you to call Parks dispatch,” she said, adding that they receive at least one report of a washed up Pacific white-sided dolphin per year.

She urged people that do encounter marine animals on the beach to give them space and to keep dogs leashed.

“It’s less stressful for the animal and there is also the potential for disease transfer, so just make sure you give them their space.”

Under the Canada National Parks Act, it is illegal to remove any natural objects such as fossil, plants or animals in the park.

“You cannot keep any marine mammal part. Respect it and leave it where it is,” said Yakimishyn.

If you observe an injured, stranded, entangled or dead marine mammal, report it to the BC Marine Mammal Response Network: 1-800-465-4336 and/or within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, call Parks Canada Dispatch: 1-877-852-3100.

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Nora O'Malley

About the Author: Nora O'Malley

Nora O'Malley studied journalism at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
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