Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), in partnership with the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR), conducted their second of three field seasons in October 2018 near Naples and Marco Island, to estimate the population size of bottlenose dolphins in the region and to build a photographic-identification catalog of identifiable individuals.
According to Dr. Reny Tyson-Moore, staff scientist with SDRP, crews observed 69 unique groups of dolphins during six surveys conducted with RBNERR staff assistance. They recorded an estimated 466 individuals, including 32 calves born in 2018 (note: unique individuals and calves may have been seen more than once). Sightings included an observation of Skipper (see photo), a dolphin that SDRP disentangled and released near Marco Island in 2014. RBNERR staff also participated in that recovery effort as part of the SW regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Read more about that recovery effort.
The information collected during this and future studies can be used to monitor the health of the dolphins in this region, and to better assess the effects of persistent threats (e.g., boat strikes, entanglements) and catastrophic events (e.g., oil spills, red tides) on these animals if/when such events occur.