Featured Image Credit: Hamid Elbaz via Pexels
By Emily Persico
“Bottlenose dolphins being here affects everything,” said Isidore Szczepaniak. An expert at Golden Gate Cetacean Research, Szczepaniak and fellow researchers have noticed as bottlenose dolphins have slowly pushed their boundaries northward from Southern California. Recently, these quick swimmers were seen as far north as Point Arena in Mendocino County. This is over 60 miles out of their usual range, and its cause is stumping local scientists.
“These animals are not just coming up here and staying here,” Szczepaniak explained. In fact, one dolphin travelled more than 600 miles, from Mexico to Northern California, in bottlenose dolphins’ longest known movement.
Bottlenose dolphins are powerful creatures capable of much more than swimming long distances. These territorial brutes can get up to 11 feet long and weigh 500 pounds. They support their bulk by feasting on crustaceans, squid and fish.
“They have started to feed on a resource they do not have in Southern California,” Szezepaniak told journalists. In their new home of Northern California, one of their favorite snacks are endangered salmon.
When these bottlenose dolphins aren’t crunching on rare fish, they are brutally infringing upon porpoises’ longtime home. Porpoises are smaller than bottlenose dolphins, and they are relatively defenseless in their wake.
“We started seeing evidence of blunt force trauma, broken ribs and lesions, in harbor porpoises,” said Szczepaniak. Porpicide is becoming increasingly common as bottlenose dolphins move north.
Bottlenose dolphins’ big move up north may indeed be the end of an era for endangered salmon and harbor porpoises, both of which once reigned Northern California proudly. Move over, kids. There’s a new king in town.
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