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Rescuers Thwarted in Efforts to Snare Dolphin

December 21, 1988

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) _ A bottlenose dolphin slipped away from more than four dozen rescuers Wednesday when they tried to snare the animal in a net and take it to warmer water.

Rescuers in 13 boats, foiled by the dolphin a half-dozen times in seven hours, decided to wait until Thursday to make another attempt.

Robert Schoelkopf, who is heading the operation, said rescuers were thwarted by strong currents and a frisky dolphin. ″He’s not weak at all. He’s very robust, very spirited,″ said Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J.

But he said the 6-foot animal, which weighs 200 pounds to 300 pounds, is still threatened by the chilly waters.

It apparently was upset by a net thrown in the water to catch it, he said.

″This is like a semisolid wall under water to this animal,″ he said.

Dozens of spectators watched the rescue effort from shore and others looked on from private boats. Despite the repeated failures, the dolphin cooperatively swam among the rescue boats.

The rescue attempt took place on the picturesque Broad Bay in a narrow channel that is near the Great Neck Bridge, one of two bridges separating Broad Bay from the Chesapeake Bay. The area is surrounded by luxury homes.

Mayor Meyera Oberndorf watched from a boat. Four men in business suits watched from another boat while talking, laughing and sipping drinks from plastic cups.

Josiah Woodington, a Broad Bay resident assisting in the rescue effort, said, ″Anything we can do to help, we want to help. I think that it’s great that we can come together and catch this fish. ″

The rescue effort, which included about 50 people, was authorized Monday by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Rescuers hope to capture the dolphin in the net and fly it to warmer waters off North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Residents have been lobbying for the rescue since the dolphin was first noticed in the bay in early October.

The dolphin, nicknamed ″Rascal″ by residents, was spotted again in the bay Dec. 13, said Kathy Read, a diving instructor who has worked on the rescue plans. The dolphin failed to join other dolphins migrating south.

Residents believe he stayed in the bay because he was frightened of bridge construction in a narrow channel that links the bay and open water.

Schoelkopf said a rescue is risky, but the dolphin is certain to die if left in the bay, where the water temperature has dipped to 42 degrees.

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