CLEARWATER — On Nov. 11, officials at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium reported that Winter the dolphin, the facility’s most famous resident, had died at approximately 8 p.m. Winter had been suffering from a gastrointestinal infection that intensified during the week despite all efforts at treatment.
In an announcement on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium website, officials said that animal care experts from around the country worked to treat Winter’s gastrointestinal abnormality.
“The CMA family is devastated,” the announcement continues. “During preparation for a procedure, the CMA Animal Care team observed that Winter’s behavior and vital signs were declining. The medical team tried several life-saving efforts, but she died being held by her caregivers.”
Winter, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, was found tangled in crab trap line in Mosquito Lagoon in 2005. Because the line cut circulation to her tail flukes, the then 2-month-old dolphin eventually lost her tail. Winter was relocated to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where prosthetist Kevin Carroll and a team of experts developed a prosthetic tail made of silicone and plastic.
Winter the dolphin’s story of survival and inspiration has touched millions of people around the world. A movie, “Dolphin Tale,” about her life story was released in 2011 by Warner Bros.-based Alcon Entertainment. The cast included Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., and Ashley Judd, as well as Winter. The film spawned a 2014 sequel, “Dolphin Tale 2,” which features both Winter and Hope, another Atlantic bottlenose that is a resident of CMA.
“While we are heartbroken by Winter’s death, we are comforted knowing that our team did everything possible to give her the best chance at survival,” said Veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt, DVM, CVA. “We worked with specialists and marine mammal experts from around the country to provide her with the best care available. Our staff worked around the clock during this challenging time. I’m honored to work alongside such dedicated and talented professionals who gave their all for Winter.”
CMA will be closed Friday, Nov. 12, to provide time for CMA staff to grieve. A grief counselor will be made available to the team.
Plans for a memorial for Winter, honoring the positive impact she made on the world, will be announced soon.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is at 249 Windward Passage, Clearwater.
CMA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. It is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured marine animals, public education, conservation, and research.