MARATHON, Florida Keys — Ranger, a rescued juvenile dolphin airlifted to the Florida Keys one year ago from Texas, is thriving and is socializing with other dolphins at Dolphin Research Center.
The orphaned male calf dubbed Ranger was rescued in June 2021, after being discovered stranded in waters around Goose Island State Park in Texas suffering from an underlying respiratory infection and dehydration. Found near his dead mother, the dolphin was taken to the Texas State Aquarium Wildlife Rescue Center for care.
At just two years old, he was deemed too young to forage and survive in the wild, and the National Marine Fisheries Service selected DRC as his permanent home.
“Dolphins are very social; they live in a family, they depend on that family even to learn how to catch fish,” said Linda Erb, DRC’s vice president of animal care and training. “Without a mom, without a family, this little guy would have starved — he would not have known how to be a wild dolphin.”
Erb said that her team’s primary goal was to make sure that Ranger, now about three years old, learned to socialize with other dolphins in a natural lagoon at DRC after he was quarantined in a medical pool for five weeks. “The Ranger that was living in our ‘med’ pool is a very different dolphin than the Ranger living out here now today,” she said. “The Ranger in the med pool didn’t have dolphin friends, didn’t really know how to be a dolphin friend.
“Now, he is fully adapted into the family,” Erb said. “He has surrogate moms that help take care of him, he has buddies that he plays with.
“He’s even got a bunch of girlfriends … he’s practicing being a little boy already,” she said. “Ranger is doing incredibly — he is everything you want a growing little boy to be.”