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Remarkable Increase in Marco Island Dolphin Population After Hurricane Ian

The Dolphin Explorer study team has recorded some intriguing data for the year 2022. The coastal bottlenose dolphins that inhabit the Marco River and surrounding estuaries are staying near the shorelines and have a travel range of twenty miles or so.

Over the course of nearly four hundred excursions, the team has identified around 4,700 individual dolphins, comprising of 120 “resident” dolphins and 100 “transient” dolphins.

The year has seen eleven new calves born, with one first time mother in the group. This is more than the team has documented in quite some time and will contribute to the growth of the population. The majority of births occurred during September, October and November, but there was one major exception. Adult female MT2 was seen with a stillborn seven-month-old calf in May.

The team also mourned the loss of two adult dolphins. One was found deceased in one of the bays and it was identified as the male dolphin, Cam. He was likely an old dolphin, as his teeth were worn down to the jaw. The other male, C. U. Jimmie, hasn’t been seen since November of 2021.

The population is also benefitting from the return of a one-year-old calf, Dixon, who was found with his mother, Rangle, along the shoreline. The team is also encouraged by the socializing of three of the youngsters, who recently came together for a “play date”.

The net increase of eight dolphins to the area population is remarkable, considering the impact of Hurricane Ian. The storm surge caused significant damage to Marco Island and Lee County, and the water quality has been slow to return to a suitable level for the dolphins. The team is hopeful that more of the local population will return in the future.

2022 has been a successful and encouraging year for dolphins in the Marco Island area. With experienced females having a new calf every three to four years, the population should continue to grow. Keep up with the Dolphin Explorer team on their website,, and on Facebook for updates about all their dolphin happenings.


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