JUPITER — Wildlife authorities are keeping close watch on an aging bottlenose dolphin that has been lingering in the Jupiter Inlet area since the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend.
Despite concerns that the animal may have been injured or entangled, a house call by a veterinarian seems to indicate the animal may simply be sick and aging, said Kim Amendola, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Still, the agency is asking boaters to take precautions while in the area where the dolphin has been spotted - primarily the Jupiter Inlet area near the Intracoastal Waterway .
John Janero, whose home backs onto the water said two teenage girls alerted him to the dolphin. He said they guarded its space in the busy waterway which is one of the few in the area where boats can cruise at faster speeds.
The dolphin looked like it had an injured fin and was "a little pink," Janero said.
Janero called Jupiter Police for assistance and shortly two officers in a boat arrived to relieve the girls, he said.
"They deserve the credit for guarding the dolphin," Janero said. "They stayed with the girls and the dolphin for a good hour and a half."
Later that day, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers also came to check on the dolphin, but FWC is not the agency charged with caring for injured marine animals.
NOAA was also alerted to the dolphin's plight Saturday, Amendola said. And on Monday, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and a veterinarian visited the dolphin.
They all concluded that the mammal had not been injured by a boat and was not entangled in any way, NOAA's Amendola said.
"It does appear to be eating, and we will continue to watch," Amendola said. "It could be potentially going through its natural life cycle."
Dolphins living in the wild have been documented to live up to 50 years for the males and 60 years for the females.
If you spot an animal in distress, be it one with feet or flippers, you can call FWC's hotline 888-404-FWCC (3922). Authorities there will make sure the proper agency is contacted, spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro said.