BALTIMORE — A surprising sight created ripples across social media as an unidentified animal, later said to be a dolphin, was filmed splashing about in the harbor.
Facebook user John Papadakis shared videos of a dark-colored animal flailing about in the water. The comments section expounded guesses as to what it might be, some imaginative, some facetious, some concerned.
The National Aquarium eventually weighed in, saying the animal was a Risso’s dolphin calf. Also known as gray dolphins, the marine mammals are more frequently found in temperate and tropical oceans and prefer deeper offshore water, the Aquarium said. Though they are not endangered, the dolphins are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Aquarium said they had been monitoring the animal all day, with the last reported sighting occurring around 6:45 p.m. Thursday in the Canton waterfront area.
The animal appeared to be in distress, but the Aquarium said attempting a rescue would post particular dangers to the animal and to human rescuers, as the dolphin was freely swimming in a large, deep body of water. Even if the calf could be corralled, the nearest dolphin rehabilitation center is in Florida, meaning the calf would deal with the additional trauma of a long and stressful journey just to get there.
“At the National Aquarium, we strive to protect all animals, however there are times when circumstances are beyond our control,” the Aquarium said in a statement. “After considering all possible scenarios and consulting with our partners at NOAA, we believe our best option is not to intervene at this time. We will continue to monitor this animal and the situation as it changes.”
They ask all area boaters, kayakers, and paddle boarders to stay at least 150 feet away from the animal if they encounter it, and for anyone to report additional sightings to the organization’s stranding hotline at 410-576-3880.