Meet Winter, a rescued dolphin and movie star

By Vanessa Lazzaro ’20

Many marine animals get injured due to crab cages, fishing nets, boats, littering, and more. Some mammals do not get saved, and just suffer until they die. On December 10, 2005, Winter, an Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin, got injured by a crab cage and got tangled when she was only a calve. She was pushed offshore by water and was left there for a long time. When a fisherman found Winter near Cape Canaveral, Florida in Mosquito Lagoon, he called immediate marine rescue by Harbor Branch Institute and from there Winter was brought to Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA).

The CMA is an aquarium where sick or injured animals near the area are brought to get better. If they cannot survive on their own, the aquarium will be their permanent home. When Winter got to the aquarium, her tail was had to be cut off. Most dolphins trapped in monofilament and crab trap lines do not survive. Winter, on the other hand survived, which was unusual.

Winter’s story has inspired many children and adults who have suffered and struggled with life changing injuries or illness, like Winter, to get adopted. Her tail was deteriorated and couldn’t be saved. She learned how to swim in a new pattern on her own. Instead of her tail going up and down to swim, she learned to move her peduncle muscle side to side. Marine biologists at the aquarium were getting worried that she would cause more damage to the muscle, but it didn’t. They worked with a specialist named Dr. Mike Walsh. Dr. Walsh is a specialist with Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics. He was the one to make Winter a prosthetic tale. The doctor used a plastic sleeve on her skin so it wouldn’t irritate her when the fluke went on. Initially the plastic sleeve did not work, and it irritated her so bad, she broke the tail. They tried a different felt sleeve and it worked. The material on the new sleeve helped her relearn how to move her peduncle muscle correctly. The tail fluke helped her by pushing her forward.

During Winter’s free time, she relaxes in the pool without her fluke tail. When the trainer is exercising with Winter, they put on the tail. It takes them a few minutes to get the tail onto her peduncle muscle. The peduncle muscle is the muscle that moves the tail up and down for the dolphin to be able to swim. Once the tail is on, Winter moves her muscle up and down which makes her move faster in the pool. When the tail is off, she moves side to side.

Many people found Winter’s story from the movie Dolphin Tale. Her story is interesting because her story is unusual. Not every living thing can have a miracle happen. Most mammals and humans die depending how bad they are injured. Because Winter survived, that is what makes people want to know more about her tragic experience.

I had the opportunity to meet Winter this past spring.  She is a very happy dolphin. She can swim on her own without any supervision. She knows how to twirl while swimming and she is a very fast dolphin  even without her fluke tail. She knows all of her commands from the trainers and she is very calm when the tail is being put on her.

More information about Winter and other mammals ican be found at Seewinter.com.

About Vanessa Lazzaro

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