'Dolphin Tale' rescuer helps save porpoise in Florida Keys

Rescue team helps displaced porpoise get back to sea

By Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

Courtesy of Sgt. David Smith

MONROE COUNTY, Fla. - Hurricane Irma left a mess, so Rocky Road was making repairs to his home Saturday in Sugarloaf Key, a few miles from Key West. He looked out the window and saw an animal stranded in the mangroves.

It looked like a stranded dolphin, and it was on a flat offshore. Road called police. Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers responded. They asked two dolphins' experts for help.

Brandon Paquin got there as fast as he could. He is better known for being part of the famous rescue of a dolphin named Winter, which was featured in the movie "Dolphin Tale." He is now working for Dolphins Plus, a research center in Key Largo. 

Doug Mader, a veterinarian who owns the Marathon Veterinary Hospital, also responded. They determined the mammal wasn't a dolphin. It was a female porpoise. While dolphins have a hooked or curved dorsal fin, the porpoise has a triangular fin. 

"She had not been stranded too long, because she only had minor sunburn visible on her skin," said Deputy Becky Herrin, who is a spokeswoman for the police department. 

Paquin and Mader believe she probably washed in with one of the recent very high tides in the area. They are hopeful she will be fine, but had Road not seen her and notified authorities she could have remained there longer and suffered much more sun damage.  

The team of eight men carefully "waded out to the stranded female," Herrin said, "and carried her to deeper water where she swam away." 

View photos of the rescue by Sgt. David Smith:

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