More tropical sea mammals making trek to Puget Sound

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on January 7, 2011 at 5:09 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 7 at 7:01 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- It's not the first time a bottlenose dolphin has been spotted in Puget Sound, but scientists say there is a bigger picture in this instance.

Another bottlenose dolphin was found swimming in Puget Sound last year, but before that the last time a bottlenose (a tropical species) was seen this far north was back in 1988.

Biologists are hoping the one seen cruising around Budd Inlet near Olympia this week will fare better than those past two, which ended up dying.

Cascadia Research Marine Biologist John Calambokidis says a trend is forming. In addition to the two dolphins arriving in the last year, two Bryde's whales (also tropical mammals) showed up here during the last year and they too died.

There's no mass migration underway, but Calambokidis says it's enough to establish a trend, though he and other experts have no firm theory for why it's happening. Are they lost? Are they sick? Or are they just following food fish? 

Right now there are no answers. What is known from examining photos, however, is the most recent bottlenose visitor appears to be young and other than a minor skin disorder, in apparent good health.

Until there is some dramatic change in that assessment, scientists say there will be no attempts to capture or treat the dolphin.

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