Mystery of the Gulf’s Pink and White Dolphins

The most beautiful creature I have ever seen in the wild is a pink dolphin. In fact it is the very pink dolphin you see in the photo below that I took on Louisiana’s Lake Calcasieu (Big Lake) in 2010.

pinky the dolphin
Photo by Chester Moore, Jr.

This dolphin is nicknamed “Pinky” and I have been blessed to see it on three separate occasions and it had it swim fairly close to our boat while drifting in the channel near Cameron, La. in 2013. You can see that video clip below.

In my opinion anomalies like this are important because they raise awareness to issues in nature and in this case the presence and importance of marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Heidi Whitehead with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, this partitcular dolphin has been observed for more than a decade.

We initially began receiving reports of the “pink” bottlenose in Calcasieu in 2007 and we worked with NOAA to educate people and reduce vessel traffic around the animal for the protection of the animal because there were so many wanting to get out to see it.  There was also a pink dolphin observed in the Houston ship channel near Bolivar several years ago but it has not been confirmed whether or not this was a different animal than the Calcasieu one as we have seen evidence from our photo-ID work that dolphins travel between Galveston and Louisiana.

Whitehead provided us with a fact sheet from NOAA on pink and white albino dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico and it contains some truly interesting information.

While there have been many documented sightings of albino, “white” or “pink” bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico; it is believed these sightings are of the same three individuals. The first was reported during the summer of 1994 in Little Lake near New Orleans, Louisiana. The all-white dolphin was spotted in a group of 4-5 individuals for 20 to 30 minutes and never seen again. In September 2003, another all white dolphin calf was first observed in a group of more than 40 dolphins south of Galveston, Texas. It was re-sighted several times in the same vicinity through August 2004 (Fertl et al., 1999; Fertl et al., 2004). 

This is what NOAA has to say about “Pinky” from the Lake Calcasieu area.

Although the dolphin is often referred to as a “pink” dolphin because of its pink coloration, it is considered an albino. The dolphin’s mother is not albino and has the gray coloring typical of coastal bottlenose dolphins. Dolphin calves are typically born dark gray in color. All sightings of this dolphin have been off Louisiana and most of the time it was seen swimming with a group. 

According to NOAA there have been “white” dolphin sightings along the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Other “white” dolphins have been sighted in the Southeast U.S. between 2012-2014, these include off the coast of South Carolina, NE Florida and Georgia, and in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida 

If you see a pink or white dolphin call the Southeast US Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-877-433-8299. They are interested in getting information on these unique animals.

And so am I.

If you have photos or videos please send them along with photo credits and dates/timeline if possible.

I am working on a special project for kids regarding these colorful enigmatic marine mammals and would appreciate your help.

E-mail chester@kingdomzoo.com

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog for weekly updates enter your email address in the bar at the top right of the page.)

Another Sea Snake Report Comes From Gulf of Mexico

Sea snakes are some of the most unusual and mysterious reptiles on the planet and their known range is limited to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

I have however uncovered a series of interesting reports in the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas/Louisiana border.

In response to an earlier entry here at The Wildlife Journalist® another report came in-this time from Florida.

Last year in August (2017) we were on a family vacation. We went down to the beach and got I’m in the water and not two minutes later my 11-year-old started yelling snake. I still couldn’t see it. So he pointed at it and followed it out the water. It went down the beach 20 or 30 yards and back in the water. It was only a baby but definitely a banded sea krait. I have watched many nature shows with this snake on it. This was at Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island, Fla. We will be there again this August and I will be keeping a look out for another one.

This location is on the Gulf Coast of Florida and is the first report we are aware of in the region.

reef4448
Banded sea krait. Photo courtesy NOAA

In the first article on the subject we note there are eel species in the Gulf that could be mistaken for a sea snake, however the behavior mentioned in the report above does not match up with eel behavior.

Is it really possible that banded sea kraits entered the Gulf of Mexico through ship ballasts?

An article at thoughtco.com explains ballast systems purpose and how they work.

A ballast water system allows a ship to pump water in and out of very large tanks to compensate for a change in cargo load, shallow draft conditions, or weather.

  • The capacity of ballast water tanks might be millions of gallons on a large vessel. This allows vessels to carry a light or heavy load while maintaining ideal buoyancy and handling conditions in all situations.

More than 7,000 species move around in ship ballots daily according to officials with the World Wildlife Fund in an article in The Telegraph and while ships are supposed to change their ballast water in the open ocean to lessen the chance of invaders making it inland, this would have little impact on sea snakes. They could easily catch a ride on a mat of Sargassum and be just fine.

The Chinese Mitten crab has taken up residence in the Thames and other English river systems after being brought in by ballasts. It’s within the realm of possibility for sea snakes to hitch a ride into the Gulf.

An interesting side-note is the most likely sea snake hitchhiker would be the yellow-bellied sea snake as it is found along the Pacific Coast of Panama and is the most widely distributed species. All of the reports I have gathered are of banded sea kraits which live much further away from the United States.

5641015052_5f9ca4f76c_o
Yellowbelly sea snake. Photo courtesy NOAA

We will talk more about this in another post and dig more into some other possible cases of mistaken identity besides the aforementioned eels.

If you have seen any sea snake in the Gulf of Mexico or had a sighting of something snake-like you cannot explain email chester@kingdomzoo.com.

This story is getting more interesting by the week and we will continue coverage here at The Wildlife Journalist®.

Chester Moore, Jr.

 

 

 

Box Turtle Kills and Eats Rattlesnake (Video And Photos)

When Diane James walked into her backyard in Post, TX she did not expect to see a rattlesnake. Nor did she expect to see an ornate box turtle killing and eating the rattlesnake.

Photo Courtesy Diane James

But that is exactly what she saw and was able to capture on video and with still images.

It might be hard to imagine a box turtle-a cute species often kept as pets killing and eating a rattlesnakes but these turtles are omnivores. That means they eat plant and vegetable material.

When I was just of high school, a science teacher in Wichita, KS who kept a box turtle in his classroom put a small live mouse in its enclosure and the turtle attacked and ate it.

I was stunned.

A mouse is one thing but a rattlesnake is another and this particular box turtle does it with reckless abandon. I hope you enjoy this unique look into the trials and tribulations of nature. To watch a coral snake eating a copperhead click here.

If you want a look into wildlife you will find nowhere else subscribe to this blog by entering your email address at the bar on the top right side of the page.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Photo Courtesy Diane James

While I have you here…

Do you have an animal-loving child between the ages of eight and 18?

What would you say if I told you they can be part of a powerful wildlife conservation group that helps endangered wildlife around the world?

And what if  told you it was free?

World Wildlife Journalists™ is an outreach for school-aged children that allows them to take part in helping threatened wildlife and learning media skills to do it. It’s all positive with no drama and no politics. Your child will never be part of ugly, heated debates over wildlife political issues like you see on cable television.

jaguar-3

They will however be part of a forward thinking outreach on behalf of the most incredible animals on the planet.

By simply signing up your child can become part of an important movement of youth involvement in conservation, take part in monthly online events and earn special prizes.

Here are the benefits:

*Special Membership Card

*World Wildlife Journalists™ Decal

*Monthly drawings & competitions featuring wildlife-related prizes

*Special Facebook page for parents and supervised children to participate in seminars, instructive clinics and conservation challenges.

*Monthly conservation challenges inspiring your child to use different media skills (writing, photography, video and art) to help raise awareness to wildlife issues.

faith ambassador 1

Click here and fill out the form at the bottom of the page so your child can become one of the World Wildlife Journalists™ and make a positive impact on endangered wildlife.