North shore residents saddened by dolphin's passing - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

North shore residents saddened by dolphin's passing

A popular dolphin that swam in the waters near Slidell was found dead Sunday. (Source: Melissa Walters) A popular dolphin that swam in the waters near Slidell was found dead Sunday. (Source: Melissa Walters)

A popular dolphin known for swimming alongside boats in a canal behind Lakeshore Estates, near Slidell, has died.

"It feels like we lost a family member," said resident Justin Goutierrez.

Goutierrez grew up watching the wild dolphin frolic in the water behind his parent's home.

"We spent so many evenings, sitting out, having a glass of wine on the dock and he was swimming right in front of us and it was an enjoyable moment," said Goutierrez.

For nearby residents and the outside boaters he attracted, the dolphin was a welcome sight. 

"We have pictures of him jumping out of the water and things of that nature so he was like a celebrity back here," resident Greg Walters explained.

The animal lived in the canal since just before Hurricane Katrina. But after the storm, he was abandoned by his mother and sought companionship from passing jet skiers and swimmers.

"I just felt that he was all alone so I just decided to start swimming across the canal and he decided to start swimming next to me," said Goutierrez.

A few weeks ago, residents started noticing the animal looked sick. Walters says the dolphin had lesions on his back. Soon, Wildlife and Fisheries agents determined low salinity levels in the water were to blame. They believe recent rainfall contributed to the salinity levels.

"I was hoping that somebody would be able to take him out but nobody ever came," Goutierrez said.

The dolphin was last seen swimming on June 6. Then, on June 15, his carcass was found.

"I saw a Wildlife and Fisheries boat on the other shoreline. I got on my jet ski, and sure enough, the dolphin was dead. He beached himself on the other shoreline," explained Greg Walters.

After the dolphins body was discovered, it was brought to the Audubon Aquarium for a necropsy. Marine mammal experts say a cause of death can't be determined because the body was so badly decomposed.

"I was hoping he would have left the waters to go find deeper water with more salinity in the water," said Walters.

Justin Goutierrez says he loved the time he spent with the animal, but deep down, he wishes Wildlife and Fisheries would've gotten involved years ago and moved the dolphin to a safer habitat.

"I was praying that they would've. They should've done something, he really didn't belong here," Goutierrez said.

Now, of course, it's too late. All that Goutierrez is left with are his memories and videos of the dolphin that captured so many hearts.

A spokesperson for Wildlife and Fisheries says the dolphin couldn't, by law, be moved if the animal had the ability to leave an area on its own, which the dolphin did. It just simply chose to stay in the canal behind Lakeshore Estates.

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