Warm-water dolphin dies in Tofino, B.C., in 'unusual' stranding

An exotic dolphin that beached itself near Tofino, B.C., has died after what rescuers describe as an "unusual" stranding.

Expert says it's extremely rare for long-beaked common dolphins to venture so far north

An example of a short-beaked common dolphin in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and Parks Canada say they believe the animal that died near Tofino was a rare, long-beaked dolphin. (Erin Gless)

A rare, exotic dolphin that beached itself near Tofino, B.C., has died after what rescuers described as an "unusual" stranding.

A team from the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and Parks Canada said in a news release they were unable to save what is believed to be a long-beaked common dolphin.

Parks employees found the animal at Pacific Rim National Park, and tried to re-float the dolphin — an adult male — so it could swim away, then held it in shallow water until members from the rescue centre arrived.

The dolphin was in critical condition when it was taken to the rescue centre in Vancouver, but died at the centre.

A necropsy is set to be performed to determine the animal's cause of death.

'Something is changing'

Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit, said it's "extremely rare" to see a warm-water dolphin in the area.

"It's a warm-water species. We think of them in the tropics or in the warm temperate waters that range from California to Chile," he said.

"To see them this far north, which is out of their comfort zone, tells us that something is changing."

The last report of a long-beaked common dolphin stranded in B.C. was in 1993, while the last reported sighting was in 2003 in False Creek.

Trites said that as oceans warm, scientific models predict that tropical species are likely to move north, seeking out cooler waters or following food sources.

"Some of these species that have adapted to warm oceans, they're now going to be able to come to British Columbia," he said.

"It could be a sign of things to come."

With files from The Canadian Press

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