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Bottlenose Dolphins in Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches

Frank Gromling
Frank Gromling
When one thinks of ocean animals one almost always thinks of dolphins. While there are numerous species of dolphins in the Atlantic, it is the bottlenose dolphin that cruises Flagler County’s coastal waters. This sleek, fast mammal can be seen all year as it feeds near shore, often spotted “surfing” in waves crashing over the sandbar close to the beach.

Dolphins are one of the smartest animals in the ocean and are known to interact with whales and other sea creatures in a playful and engaging manner. Their interaction with humans is legendary. 

Dolphins are marine mammals. That is, they have hearts and lungs, breathe air, and have live births. Other marine mammals include whales, seals and sea lions, manatees and dugongs, otters, and polar bears. Adults are 8-12 feet long, weigh 440-660 pounds, and live up to 40 years in the ocean.

Dolphins feed on a variety of fish, squid and crustaceans. Along our coast, they can be seen pursuing large migrations of baitfish, such as mullet or menhaden. Working in pods, they may also encircle schools of fish and take turns rushing through, with mouths wide open. Like other ocean mammals, dolphins are protected by federal and state laws, and are not to be fed or petted by humans.

In the Florida Keys years ago, I was snorkeling in an ocean lagoon with two adolescent bottlenose dolphins when they started to do everything I did. I somersaulted under the surface and so did they. I swam in a corkscrew motion and they did, too. This went on for about 20 minutes as they watched me intently, duplicating my underwater gyrations, until finally they swam off into the blue. I’ll never forget the feelings I had that day as I left their watery environment for dry land.

With dolphins being one of the primary ocean predator species, it is important to protect them from harm. If their numbers and health decline seriously, the entire ocean ecosystem is at risk. While there are various natural causes for dolphin mortality, we can help prevent deaths by keeping plastics out of the ocean, joining the campaigns to eliminate dolphin killing for food in certain cultures, and supporting legislative actions designed to protect the species.

When you next see bottlenose dolphins swimming by, savor the moment, and think about what you can do to make sure they remain healthy for future generations to enjoy.