In 2005, a bottlenose dolphin was rescued from some crab trap lines in Mosquito Lagoon, near Cape Canaveral, FL. The lines had wound around the dolphin's tail, cutting off circulation. The 3-month old female dolphin was brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where an intensive rehabilitation program began. She was named Winter because she was rescued in December.
Despite the best efforts of veterinarians, Winter lost her tail and two vertebrae. The undaunted dolphin learned how to swim without her tail by moving her body in an undulating movement similar to the way a fish swims. However, this movement caused Winter to overwork some muscles and under-work others, causing vets to worry about possible spine damage.
Winter's Artificial Tails:
Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka of Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, Inc. heard about Winter's plight on the radio and offered to help. They worked with veterinarians over 1-1/2 years to develop a prosthetic tail, along with a unique "sleeve" called Winter's Gel which helps keep the tail in place but avoids damaging Winter's skin, and makes the tail easy to remove.
As she has grown over the past 6 years, the team has made over 50 tails for Winter. As of September 2011, Winter weighed just over 270 pounds. In general, adult bottlenose dolphins can grow to 8-12 feet and weigh up to about 1,400 pounds.
Over the years, Winter's story has inspired those who have lost limbs, many of whom have gone to Clearwater to visit her in person. The artificial tail wasn't just a leap in marine mammal rehabilitation - the Winter's Gel that was developed for Winter has helped human patients, too, increasing the comfort of those wearing prosthetic limbs.
Dolphin Tale Movie:
Winter's inspiring story has been made into a movie, Dolphin Tale, starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick, Jr., and Winter herself. The movie premiers on September 23, 2011. Have you seen the film? Let me know what you think here.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is undergoing an expansion to accommodate the increased visitation expected as a result of the movie.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium's web site has been updated with Winter in mind - you can learn all about Winter, read her story and learn about the aquarium. If you'd like to visit Winter at the aquarium, you can click here for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's hours, admission prices, and directions.
Education and Teacher Resources:
- Bair, Diane. 2011. It’s Always a ‘Winter’ day At Clearwater Marine Aquarium Miami Herald. Accessed September 20, 2011.
- Benet, Lorenzo. 2011. Dolphin Tale's Winter Inspires People with Disabilities. People. Accessed September 20, 2011.
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Winter's Story. Accessed September 20, 2011.
- Goddard, Jacqui. 2011. Hollywood Ending for Dolphin's Tale. The Telegraph. Accessed September 20, 2011.
- Leigh, Vivien. 2011. Dolphin's New Tail Inspires Major Movie WLBZ2.com. Accessed September 20, 2011.
- Winter's Tail: the Book and Nintendo DS Web Site