Day of the Dolphin

Underweight dolphin dies despite valiant effort to save it

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Jersey City police talk about rescue of dolphin.
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Dolphin was found on the rocks near the Colgate Clock in Jersey City.
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Jersey City police talk about rescue of dolphin.
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Dolphin was found on the rocks near the Colgate Clock in Jersey City.

A young dolphin rescued from the rocky shoreline of the Morris Canal near the Colgate Clock on July 16 has not survived, despite the efforts of first responders and animal care experts.

For two hours, Jersey City Police Sgt. Casey McKenna, his fellow officers and Mike Smith, the animal control officer, held the stranded dolphin out of the water, hoping to keep it alive long enough for an expert from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center to arrive from Brigantine.

A woman walking a dog near the Colgate Clock at about 3:30 p.m. during that Tuesday saw the dolphin stranded on the rocks along the shore. Smith from nearby Liberty Humane Society arrived on the scene first and was struggling to help the sickly dolphin when McKenna and his crew from the Emergency Service Unit (ESU) arrived.

The ESU officers were met by State Park Police and Smith, who was keeping the dolphin above water with a bed sheet that local EMTs had supplied. Rough water splashed against the stones from the constant boat traffic in the harbor, threatening to further injure the already distressed animal.

McKenna climbed down into the canal to help control the dolphin while his fellow officers gathered the equipment needed to help rescue the animal.

“A wounded animal is still powerful,” he said. McKenna said one of the challenges involved the officers dealing with the slick rocks where the rescue took place.

“I thought the animal looked small,” he said, thinking it was either sick or young.

They needed to keep the dolphin’s air holes above the water. Dolphins, like whales, are mammals that breathe air and the dolphin could have drowned.

Liberty Humane notified the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, whose personnel arrived at about 7 p.m. to assist in the rescue, said Jersey City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione.

Whale and dolphin sightings in the waters off Jersey City are not unusual. They are frequent summer guests as far north as Sandy Hook on the south end of Staten Island.

McKenna and his team have performed water rescues before, and they are trained to deal with medical emergencies as well as underwater diving.

“These men do a lot of training,” said Deputy Police Chief Michael Kenny. “They take eight months of training in New York City and bring that training here to this side of the Hudson River. They do a lot of rescues, including recovery of bodies.”

McKenna said this was his first time rescuing a dolphin, as was also true for his fellow officer, Eric Tavarez, who said he’s previously rescued a seal.

PO Ameer Alateek said the ESU has conducted a number of water rescues in the past, including the recovery of humans who have fallen into New York Harbor.

“We’ve rescued lots of cats, raccoons, even a turtle here and there, but the dolphin was over 100 pounds even though he was undersized,” Alateek said.

The rescue took place near Essex and Hudson streets by the Morris Canal, where a small crowd gathered to watch, and later offered the officers encouragement.

The dolphin was eventually loaded into a tank on a truck and transported back to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center where it eventually expired.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com