HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Wildlife experts are trying to return a healthy dolphin to the ocean after it became stranded by swimming into a narrow wetlands channel along the southern California coast.
Rescuers are hoping that by Saturday morning the animal will have found its own way to open waters.
If not, they said they might try to simply shoo it away because any attempt to capture it could be dangerous to the animal and rescuers.
The 7-foot-long, black-and-white common dolphin was spotted in a channel of the Bolsa Chica wetlands Friday, circling in shallow waters as crowds grew along the banks and TV helicopters flew overhead.
A swimmer and two lifeguards on paddleboards entered the water to test the dolphin's reaction, and a decision was made to let the healthy, strong and fast dolphin try to find its own way out, said Dean Gomersall, animal care supervisor at the nonprofit Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue said the dolphin doesn't need a high tide to escape.
The wetlands is separated from the ocean by a wide beach and Pacific Coast Highway. Sea water flows in from Huntington Harbour on one end and an inlet cut through the beach on the opposite end.
The dolphin, part of a small pod seen in the harbor earlier in the week, entered the channel through a hole in a tidal gate that separates the harbor from the marsh, Gomersall said.
The other five dolphins remained in the harbor and may have to be coaxed back out to sea, Gomersall said.