Islanders move stranded dolphin to deeper water near Freeport

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on August 13, 2014

A group of Islanders have their fingers crossed tonight for a wayward dolphin they carried from the beach and refloated in the Bay of Fundy.

“The last I saw it, it was swimming but just in the cove, it hadn’t gone back out into the passage,” said Andy Moir, who with his wife Chris Callaghan, helped organize the rescue attempt. “I’m hopeful but not overly optimistic.”


Dolphin saved in Digby's south end, Aug. 2007

Three days of dolphins in Digby's south end, Aug. 2007

Dolphin washes up on shore in Brighton, Aug. 2012

Moir thinks the dolphin spent at least three or fours exposed to the sun on the muddy beach of North East Cove in Freeport on Long Island in Digby County.

North East Cove is a wide shallow body of water on the Long Island side of Grand Passage, which is the fast flowing tidal channel between Long and Brier Islands.

The dolphin was in pretty hard shape says Moir.

“It didn’t have a lot of fight left in it,” he said. “It was breathing but not a lot.”

The dolphin’s skin had lots of small nicks in it which the rescuers believe resulted from the stranding.

Billy Howard was penny winkling or gathering perrywinkles when he heard the Atlantic white-sided dolphin blowing on the beach a bit before 8 p.m.

He called Moir and Chris Callaghan and Callaghan immediately called the Marine Animal Response Society, who said they wouldn’t be able to make it.

While Callaghan called friends and neighbours, Moir posted a call for help on Facebook and then they headed down to the cove with tarps and towels.

The dolphin was well up in the cove but luckily sitting in a little brook where a couple inches of fresh water were flowing over it.

About 15 people, kids and adults arrived to help.

They covered it with wet towels, lifted it on to the tarp and then slid it along through the brook, floating it as much as possible and lifting only when necessary.

In all Moir estimates it took them 35 minutes to get the dolphin to deeper water but their work didn’t end there.

Moir and Callaghan had been involved with the rescue of a small minke at Dartmouth Point (on the St. Mary’s Bay side of Freeport) about six years ago -- they learned there that marine mammals lose their sense of up and down when stranded and can’t be simply dumped back into the water.

The rescuers rocked the dolphin back and forth in the water for ten minutes to readjust it to floating, and then they removed the tarp and rocked it for another 15 or 20 minutes before releasing it.

Moir said the dolphin did move off some but not energetically.

By this time it was getting dark and most of the rescuers were cold and wet from slogging over the muddy bottom through waist deep water.

“It came back in with the tide but it’s flood tide now and hopefully that will help restore it and then it will be able to make its way out with the tide,” said Moir.

Moir says the dolphin may have been among the hundreds of dolphins seen swimming through Grand Passage yesterday.

“People who know a whole lot more about these things than I do say, they’ve never seen that many go through at one time or stay that long,” says Moir.

Ferry passengers peered over the rails and Islanders lined the shores while the large group of dolphins swam around in the passage for several hours, says Moir.

He expects residents of Freeport will be up at first light looking for any sign of the stranded dolphin.

“It was great to see that many people who cared enough to help,” says Moir. “Whether in the end it will do any good, I don’t know, but I would rather have tried.”

[Christine Callaghan's name ring a bell? Maybe from this other little rescue she was involved with and wrote this moving report about:

Rescuers save humpback from tangle of ropes, Sept. 2013]