By Jill Mulford
Did you know our new neighbors on the Chester River are the Bottlenose Dolphins? Not only have people reported seeing them here but also in the Miles and Severn Rivers, and even in Baltimore Harbor. Last summer, a large pod was frolicking and entertaining boaters off St. Michael’s and the same was happening on the west side in Selby Bay. Dolphins are becoming more prevalent in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. They thrive in warm, salty water and visit us in the summer to enjoy our fish when our water temperature can reach the high eighties. They migrate north and if you are going to see them in our neighborhood, it will be between May and October.
Will you be seeing dolphins off our shores soon? No one knows for sure because no one knows how big the population actually is. Formal tracking methods are underway but right now stats rely on reports of sightings by people who call the Aquarium or the newspaper. What is known, is that the number seems to be increasing and, in fact, dolphins are now a part of the published Field and Wildlife Guides about the Chesapeake Bay. Whether they are becoming our neighbors because the Bay is healthier or because the climate warmer is not clear, but they are here and
we’ll have a chance to enjoy them! Everyone loves dolphins and is delighted to see one. We are lucky to have had these beautiful creatures as our neighbors while on this trip. Recently while on a glass bottom boat trip off Key Largo, someone saw a dolphin and all 35 people in the boat jumped up and cheered! The Coral Reef could wait but everyone’s excitement over the dolphins could not! Cameras flashed, text messages beeped, and fingers pointed. Even the boat captain made waves to encourage their showmanship! It was delightful.
In case you are one who will be on the lookout for these amazing beings, here are some helpful hints: Bottlenose Dolphins are large, slender, gray mammals that travel in small schools of 2 to 12 but can be in pods of 50 or more. They jump, play, surf the waves and seem to enjoy entertaining their audience. Because they are mammals, they come to the surface to breathe one or two times a minute and blow air out their blow holes. They live about 30 years, grow to 12 feet long and can weigh in at 300 pounds. As you can imagine, they have a big appetite and fisherman have learned that if they see a dolphin, they’d better reel in their lines to fish somewhere else because all the fish in that cove are gone!