Dolphin attacking swimmers in Slidell

Dolphin swimming in canal (FOX 8)
Dolphin swimming in canal (FOX 8)

Slidell, La. - A wild dolphin is attacking swimmers and boaters in a canal behind Lakeshore Estates in Slidell.

The dolphin has actually been in the canal since 2005, but has just now become aggressive.

It's a calm and peaceful scene. The water behind Lakeshore Estates is un-usually quiet on this Friday, until suddenly up pops a fin.

Lakeshore Estates resident Greg Walters says the male dolphin has lived behind his home since just after Katrina. Walters explains, "The dolphin was raised back here and then all of a sudden I think the mother disappeared and the dolphin just stayed here."

But in recent months, the dolphin has taken to biting people.

Last week, a teen was bit as he was washing off his hands in the water, while standing in his boat.

Walters knows two people who've been attacked in the past few months saying, "Dolphin grabbed my niece by the hand. She pulled her hand out of the mouth, and in doing so ripped the tendons out of her hand and had to go to the emergency room."

The doctors at Slidell Memorial Hospital have seen two patients come in in the past week and know of another person who was treated for a dolphin bite at a different local hospital. ER Dr. Lloyd Gueringer said, "This is out of the ordinary. I've never seen it before and I've been practicing emergency medicine for over 30 yrs."

A biologist with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries says the dolphin is used to humans feeding him. "This animal has associated humans with food and it may have led to its now aggressive and noted biting behaviors," Mandy Tumlin explained.

Which could be dangerous for swimmers, and even the dolphin itself.

Greg Walters says as word spreads about the dolphin living in the canal, more and more people show up on the weekends trying to catch a glimpse of him. Walters explains, "They'll be patting on the water and things of that nature just to try to get the dolphin to follow their boats and all. You know, we're concerned about it getting hit by propellers and things of that nature."

Walters has stopped swimming in the canal. He's hoping other people use caution too, because it doesn't look like this dolphin is going anywhere.

Wildlife and Fisheries say they have no plans to remove the dolphin, for fear of taking him out of his natural habitat. They also say it's a federal crime to feed or harass dolphins.