Off-duty Beaufort police officer, fire chief rescue stranded dolphin

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJuly 12, 2012 

Fridrik Tiedemann doubts his grandson will ever forget the day Papa rescued a dolphin.

Tiedemann took Jackson White, 8, kayaking July 3 on Battery Creek. They spent the afternoon on a small tributary, watching crabs, fish and a dolphin play.

"We lost sight of her, and the next thing my grandson says is 'Papa,' Tiedemann said. "And I heard this splashing and flailing. 'Papa, Papa, there's the dolphin.'

"And the dolphin was on the sandbar and couldn't get off."

Tiedemann -- a veteran law enforcement official who has worked with the S.C. Highway Patrol, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the Beaufort City Police Department -- went into action.

He told his grandson to stand out of the way as he cautiously approached the dolphin, which was on its side.

"She settled down and I talked to her. Well, I don't know how much she understood," he said. "I just kept telling her, 'You'll be OK honey, you'll be OK. We'll get out of here.' And the dolphin, she's looking at me, she's got her eyes just focused on me, and in that combination of her being tired and me talking to her, she didn't object to me touching her."

Tiedemann took the dolphin's tail and started trying to drag it across the sandbar, which he estimated to be 100 feet wide.

That's when a boat pulled up and Beaufort Fire Chief Clay Scoggins jumped out.

Scoggins said he was launching his boat from the Battery Creek Landing when people started shouting about the dolphin rescue. He offered a hand, and together the men dragged the dolphin into Battery Creek, where it promptly swam off, Scoggins said.

Wayne McFee, National Ocean Service marine mammal stranding program scientist, said the proper way to handle a stranded dolphin is to call the S.C. Department of Natural Resources Marine Mammal Stranding Network hotline at 1-800-922-5431. DNR will contact McFee's office, which will in turn have a specialist review the situation.

While McFee said Tiedemann and Scoggins are not in trouble for rescuing the dolphin, it is illegal to touch or feed the animals, which are a protected species. Those rules are for both human and animal safety, McFee said. Not only can they carry dangerous diseases, but a dolphin can seriously injure a well-intentioned rescuer.

"These animals can be very powerful," he said. "They can be three, four hundred pounds of basically all muscle, and if they decide to throw a fit, they can knock somebody out, or they can break an arm or leg."

Dolphins frequently get stuck on sandbars or in shallow water while strand fishing -- when they corral fish and chase them onto the creek banks -- but the dolphins can usually survive until the tide is high enough for them to escape.

Tiedemann said he acted quickly because it was a crisis, and he is glad he did.

"Here's the thing, by the time DNR showed up, the dolphin could have gone into shock," he said. "She was trying desperately to get off the sandbar but couldn't get off."

Related content

  1. Uptick in dolphin strandings worries marine scientists, June 29, 2011
  2. Whale and dolphin strandings might not be related, biologists say, March 9, 2010
  3. Rescued! Mother dolphin, yearling saved in Harbor Island inlet, June 23, 2008

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