Dolphin bite victim in Slidell tells her story

Photo: Melissa Walters
Photo: Melissa Walters

Thousands of people celebrated the Fourth of July out on the water.  But in the Lakeshore Estates area of Slidell, one woman won't go anywhere near the water after receiving a bite from a wild dolphin.

Melissa Walters says she was enjoying an ordinary Fourth of July last year. She and her family gathered in Slidell to celebrate her cousins' birthday, when they decided to go swimming.

Walters says, "He bit my forearm first.  I freaked out, pulled my arm out like anybody would.  He disappeared and came back and I tried to swim closer to the people I was with, and I literally put my hand in his mouth."

Walters says a dolphin clamped down on her right hand. She tried pulling her hand out, severing her finger, and ripping tendons. Walters explains, "I went through two months of physical therapy. I was out of work for a month and a half.  I lost 75 percent muscle power in my right hand."

Walters says the attack has not only left her with life-long injuries, but now she's afraid to go in the water. "There's just something about water now, that this, you really don't know what lurks below," Walters said.

Most people who live in Lakeshore Estates, or come here to visit, know about the dolphin that lives in a bayou there.  He's been here since Katrina. And lately, he's become quite popular. One man, passing by on his jet ski told us, "I love it. I just hope kids don't torment it."

Wildlife and Fisheries agents believe the dolphin is used to humans feeding him, so he automatically associates humans with food. He's bitten more than one swimmer in the past year.  Agents were out patrolling on this holiday to make sure no one was interacting with the animal.

And that's the advice Melissa Walters gives too, especially to swimmers, saying, "Stay away. Watch from afar. Stay at your house or your boat, jet skis, don't hang around."

She doesn't want anyone else to suffer a dolphin bite and have to go through the extensive recovery that she's still going through.

Walters says she doesn't think the dolphin was trying to hurt her when he bit her, but she does admit this holiday is now bittersweet as she remembers how seriously she was hurt one year ago today.