MAGNOLIA SPRINGS, Ala. (AP) _ A wayward bottlenose dolphin died before a team of 25 marine biology experts and volunteers could continue their attempts to return it to salt water and save its life, officials said.
The male mammal, nicknamed Finnegan by wildlife experts, had delighted boaters and those living on the Magnolia River since January, gobbling up fish tossed in by people.
It was found dead Saturday on the south shore of the river, surprising experts who had seen it frolicking a day earlier.
``We had no idea this thing was this close to death,″ said Gerald Regan, a biologist at Mobile’s Spring Hill College and coordinator of the Alabama chapter of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
Experts believe Finnegan likely followed freshwater fish or another dolphin eight miles up the river from Weeks Bay.
But the dolphin wouldn’t go back under the Magnolia River Bridge, perhaps seeing its support pilings as a barrier, said Bob McCormack, interpretive coordinator at Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Wayne Hoggard, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Pascagoula, Miss., had urged the public to stop playing with the dolphin and feeding it. ``That’s part of the reason why it’s staying up here.″