A coastal or pelagic species, measuring up to 4.0 metres in length, generally dark grey/ brown dorsally, light grey on sides and white ventrally, with a stubby ‘beak’.
Bottlenose dolphins have a gestation period of 12 months. Calves are born in the spring and summer, measuring 1.0 to 1.3 metres, are dependent for up to 18 months and are around 1.75 metres in length when weaned. The species is usually found in groups of less than 250 individuals in British waters and they feed on a wide variety of fish, including salmonids, herring, sprat, mullet and mackerel, squid and cuttlefish.
This species is found in resident populations in British coastal waters, located in the Moray Firth, Cardigan Bay, and south-west England, with others found in western Ireland and between the Channel Islands and France. Photo-identification studies and other research projects are ongoing for all of these groups to help increase conservation management and protection measures.
There are also transient groups that live further offshore and range over a much wider area that may occasionally be encountered.
It is thought that because the bottlenose dolphin is a coastal species it is more used to currents and tide patterns, and therefore is a rare animal to strand through simple navigational error. Animals which do strand tend to be old, sick, injured or separated newborns, which all have a low chance of survival.
A known member of the Moray Firth resident population, called Spirtle, was found live stranded on mud flats in the region a few years ago and was successfully refloated after a long rescue operation by the BDMLR team despite a significant patch of sunburn on her back. She has since been seen multiple times over the years since and the injury recorded to heal successfully while she thrived.
In 2019 Spirtle took everyone by surprise by turning up in Ireland, making one of the first known excursions of what was thought to be a resident animal that lived only within a specific region of Scotland to completely different area. She returned to the Moray Firth a few weeks later, and proved we still have much to learn about our bottlenose dolphin populations around the UK and Ireland.
A whale, dolphin or porpoise stranded on the beach is obviously not a usual phenomenon. These animals do not beach themselves under normal circumstances, and they will require assistance. Please DO NOT return them to the sea as they may need treatment and or a period of recovery before they are fit enough to swim strongly.
BDMLR RESCUE HOTLINE:
01825 765546 (24hr)
RSPCA hotline (England & Wales): 0300 1234 999
SSPCA hotline (Scotland): 03000 999 999
You will receive further advice over the phone, but important things you can do to help are:
If you find a dead cetacean
The Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP) collects a wide range of data on each stranding found on UK shores. If you discover a dead animal, please contact the CSIP hotline and give a description of the following where possible:
Digital images are extremely helpful to identify to species, as well as ascertaining whether the body may be suitable for post-mortem examination.
CSIP has produced a useful leaflet that can be downloaded by clicking here.
CSIP hotline: 0800 6520333. Callers are given a number of options to ensure they reach the correct department. You can also use this number to contact BDMLR as there is an option for live animal strandings that transfers directly to us.