Paddling with Dolphins in the Intracoastal Waterway

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We were so excited to spot our first Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. Now, it seems that a dolphin sighting happens at least once a day. I did a little research about this intelligent, social mammal and decided to share it with you in this week’s Notes From the Trail. The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin is also the Animal of the Day, so you can learn even more in that section.

12_31_12dolphin2 This dolphin surfaced during our first dolphin encounter on the Intracoastal Waterway.

What do bottlenose dolphins look like?

The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin is a mammal. They are light to dark gray in color. They can weigh 300 to 1,400 pounds (135 to 635 kg). They are generally 6 to 12.5 feet (2 to 4 m) long. They get their name, because they have long beak-like snouts. They have sharp teeth. They breathe through one blowhole. The fin on their back is called a dorsal fin. The fins on their sides are called flippers. They have large tails, called flukes.

bottlenose_dolphin Photo by Captain John Rothchild.

Where do they live?

They can be found in warm, shallow, temperate and tropical oceans or seas. Bottlenose dolphins can be found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins that live along the U.S. coast are found from Cape Hatteras all the way down to southern Florida. They can also be found in the Gulf of Mexico.

What do they eat?

In the wild, these dolphins eat squid, shrimp, eels and varieties of fish. They use high frequency echolocation to locate and capture their prey. They can swim up to 12 miles per hour to catch their prey. As social animals they hunt in teams and work in groups as many as a dozen. They travel widely to locate food.

Bottlenose_Dolphin_KSC04pd0178 Photo by NASA:

Are there any threats to dolphins?

There are several things that threaten the health and safety of the bottlenose dolphins. Every year, dolphins get tangled in fishing gear such as gillnets, seines, trawls and longlines. Exposure to pollutants and biotoxins affects the health of the dolphin population as well. Once we reach the Gulf of Mexico, we will learn more about the local dolphin population there. There is an ongoing study about how these dolphins were affected by the oil spill in 2010.

The Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins can be found all the way down to Key West. We are looking forward to observing them more as we travel south. As we learn more about this magnificent animal, we will be sure to share the information with you.


Happy Trails!



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