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Dolphin Watch
New bottlenose dolphin baby to add to the list
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Photo by ANN WEAVER
Our newest first-time mother, PeeWee, loves to leap! Here, she skillfully evades male attention by leaping out of reach.
Under appropriately baby blue skies in the middle of this month of brides, a cluster of dolphins surfaced in the shallows of a mangrove isle. A clumsy little figure burst out among them.

Tiny and shiny, though not as iridescent as a newly-hatched snake, we glimpsed a newborn baby dolphin. Surprise! PeeWee had a brand new baby!

New mom PeeWee is 9 years old this year. Therefore, having her first baby at this age puts her right on schedule for first-time mothers among our local bottlenose dolphins. At less than 2 weeks old, her baby is shedding its dark newborn skin and still squirts out of the water is if breathing surfaces were reflexes. It is hard to get a good look at! So far, PeeWee is being a model mom.

Peewee was born in our local waters in 2008. Captain John Heidemann and I, who monitor local bottlenose dolphins under federal permit, watched her grow up.

PeeWee was born to a mother so confident that we call her mother Queen P. Although PeeWee mainly grew up in our local waters, she and her mom spent a great deal of time elsewhere too. This was up to her mother, of course; PeeWee just went along for the ride.

Their extra traveling was in stark contrast to Queen P’s previous behavior. It may have been related to the five-year bridge construction project over John’s Pass. Construction created a terrible constant clamor, which was associated with a statistically significant decline in the number of local female dolphins. We speculated that the noise of construction slowly discouraged local mom dolphins from the area because they could not easily hear or be heard by their babies.

This included PeeWee’s mom Queen P, one of the females who left local waters to live elsewhere. She raised her subsequent calf, PeeWee’s little sister Paisley, somewhere else completely. P only returned to local waters a couple of years ago. Her return may demonstrate that dolphins who are discouraged from their most familiar waterways by noisy human activities could conceivably return and resume their original habits. We are not yet sure this is happening. But if it is, it took local ladies over five years to consider it.

PeeWee weaned from her mom in 2011. Lucky for us, but not perhaps PeeWee, this was just after she got a mark from a shark on her dorsal fin that would ensure we could identify her.

She split her time between local waters and elsewhere until “moving back home” a couple of years ago. At the time, she was an integral part an animated clique of age mates whom we called the Lollipop Kids. Without fail, they sprinted around the seas with such alacrity that data collection became a real challenge.

Last summer, PeeWee relinquished her wild woman ways to travel about more sedately with pairs of bulls. Last autumn, which was the start of her second quarter of a yearlong pregnancy, PeeWee was still attractive to bulls. To discourage them, she put on a strong display of leaping out of reach. When that didn’t work, she started breaching (body slamming), a stronger way to make her point, which was: “Get lost!”

PeeWee was still admirably active half way through her pregnancy this past winter. In fact, if a dog acted as she did, we would say it was in fine spirits. In January, for instance, PeeWee darted among a gathering that included her mother Queen P, new sibling Prism, and other good friends. Probably prompted by her pregnancy, PeeWee went over to play with her little sibling.

For unknown reasons, her mother discouraged this resolutely. (We don’t call her Queen P for nothing!) Then, still searching for entertainment, PeeWee started doing things that most pregnant ladies would not. She darted through the group to slide down some fabulous wake waves created by a passing yacht. Then she sprung high into the air, giving me a picture of a nice round belly and proving that pregnancy does not have to get in the way of a good time!

We wish PeeWee and her new little contribution to the community of John’s Pass dolphins the best of luck.

Dr. Weaver studies wild dolphins under federal permit 20346, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Send her an email at annstats54@gmail.com or visit her website www.g­oodna­tured­stati­stics­.com. NOAA advises anyone who sees a stranded dolphin in the Gulf of Mexico to call 877.942.5343 or 877-433-8299.
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