Experts say that a black-and-white common dolphin who has been hanging out in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands could be being dominated by its by peers.
The wayward dolphin who has been nicknamed 'Bolsa Chica Bob' and even 'Fred,' was first discovered in Orange County's Bolsa Chica wetlands on the Southern California coast, last Friday April 27. Spotted circling in shallow waters, the dolphin appeared healthy but disoriented said experts, who attempted to urge the dolphin into open ocean on Saturday.
Efforts went awry however when "it was aggressively attacked by a small group of peers thrashing in the water and was forced back into the wetlands," said Peter Wallerstein, director of Marine Animal Rescue in Los Angeles County. Wallerstein told the LA Times:
"He was scared, he was intimidated, he was bullied. Dolphins can be very aggressive toward each other. They’re not the sweet, loving, gentle animals portrayed by the movies and the cartoons. They do have a dark side."
As a result, a second attempt at driving the dolphin towards open sea on Monday was cancelled. Wallerstein said it would be best to let the dolphin return to the sea on its own rather than forcing it into a potentially confrontational situation where it could be harmed.
Richard Connor, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts who has studied common dolphins in the wild told ABC News that "male dolphins’ social lives were intense," and they are known to form gangs or alliances.
Marine science instructor at Orange Coast College – Dennis Kelly, said he doesn't think there is bullying in the dolphin world and disagreed with the assessment. He added that perhaps the dolphin's peers were just expressing their frustration. Kelly told the OC Register:
"Maybe the others are angry? ‘You’re lagging behind, you moron.’ Maybe they were going whack it. ‘You’re not paying attention. Slap! OK, we’re leaving.'"
Common dolphins are rarely seen this close to shore says ARKive, and prefer deeper waters over 180 meters (around 590 feet).
Cara Sands from Friends of the Dolphins, a group that investigates and documents the capture, care and confinement of marine mammals in captivity, told Digital Journal:
"Without drawing bloods, there's no way to determine the health of this animal. It's doubtful whether the pair of male dolphins will continue to hang around the mouth of the wetlands indefinitely. For reasons unknown, sometimes dolphins seek out solitude, even in the absence of poor health."
Sands informed us that rescue workers may try leading the dolphins' peers out of the area today. This would then allow them to lead the bullied dolphin out to sea.