Moving Dolphin From Bolsa Chica Wetlands to Ocean "Could Be Death Blow"

Five days after a dolphin swam into Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach, the dolphin's staying in the coastal cul-de-sac and experts think it may be the victim of dolphin bullying

By Janet Kwak and Jason Kandel
|  Monday, Apr 30, 2012  |  Updated 7:56 PM PDT
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Vikki Vargas

"People think they're happy, happy dolphins ... but they do have a dark side. They have conflicts just like we do," says said veteran sea mammal wrangler Peter Wallerstein of the El Segundo-based nonprofit Marine Animal Rescue group. Rescuers believe a dolphin that made its way into the Bolsa Chica Wetlands is staying put because a group of its own are bullying it. Vikki Vargas reports from Bolsa Chica Wetlands for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 30, 2012.

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Free-Will-He? Dolphin Stays in Wetlands

Peter Wallerstein, a wildlife expert, says a dolphin may be choosing to stay in its cozy coastal cul de sac in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands rather than face aggressive members of its pod waiting in the ocean nearby. NBC4's Janet Kwak reports for NBC News at noon on Monday, April 30, 2012.

Dolphin Escapes, Then Returns

A wayward dolphin is in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach. The dolphin escaped then returned. NBC4's Michelle Valles reports for the 6 p.m. newscast on Saturday, April 28, 2012 from Huntington Beach.
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The dolphin that's been calling the Bolsa Chica Wetlands home for the last five days may be choosing to stay in its comfy coastal cul-de-sac.

After watching a dolphin in the shallows of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve get bullied by dolphins in the Huntington Harbour Saturday, wildlife experts were monintoring the animal Monday and not trying to prod it into the ocean unless its health deteriorates.

Wildlife experts believe the dolphin knows how to get out, but it's choosing to stay.

“We've got monitors 24-7," said veteran sea mammal wrangler Peter Wallerstein of the El Segundo-based nonprofit Marine Animal Rescue group. "We're not going to abandon this dolphin by any means.

"The last thing we want to do is force it into a confrontation."

The image of dolphin bullies is not wholly in line with people's usualy conception of the creatures, Wallerstein said.

"People think they are happy loving animals but they have a dark side and can be aggressive with each other," he said.

Rescuers are taking a hands-off approach, citing that the dolphin has plenty of fish to eat in the area where it's stranded.

“There's no reason to do anything prematurely,” Wallerstein said. “Its breathing rate is good.”

Marine mammal experts were able to get the nearly 7-footer under the Warner Avenue overpass into deeper water in Huntington Harbour Saturday, where some other dolphins apparently bullied it and it retreated back into the lagoon.

Other dolphins had escaped the wetlands last week, but the lone dolphin was unable to leave the area near Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, according to the Marine Mammal Center.

Wallerstein first spotted the dolphin in the wetlands area on Thursday morning.

Since then, the dolphin has drawn a crowd of onlookers, some giving it nicknames such as "Bolsa Chica Bob" and "Fred."

Wallerstein said the dolphin likely swam through a narrow channel that leads to the lagoon, which is unusual, but it wasn't clear why the dolphin wound up there, he said, adding that dolphins do follow fish into harbors.

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