ESR 33:159-180 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00732

Ranging patterns of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Randall S. Wells1,*, Lori H. Schwacke2, Teri K. Rowles3, Brian C. Balmer1,2, Eric Zolman2, Todd Speakman2, Forrest I. Townsend4, Mandy C. Tumlin5, Aaron Barleycorn1, Krystan A. Wilkinson1

1Chicago Zoological Society, c/o Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA
2Hollings Marine Laboratory, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 331 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
3Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, USA
4Bayside Hospital for Animals, 251 Racetrack Road NE, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32547, USA
5Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, 2000 Quail Drive, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70808, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus were present in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, USA, before, during, and after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Health assessments conducted on dolphins in Barataria Bay in 2011, 2013, and 2014, after the capping of the well, found disease conditions consistent with petroleum hydrocarbon exposure and toxicity. Satellite-linked transmitters were affixed to dolphins during these health assessments for assessing the potential for continued exposure to petroleum-associated products, estimating survival rates, and planning potential restoration. In total, 44 tags were deployed, transmitting for 48 to 260 d. The dolphins exhibited multi-year site fidelity to small home ranges. Most tagged dolphin locations were inside the bay. On average, the dolphins that entered the Gulf coastal waters remained within 1.75 km of shore. No dolphins were documented more than 14 km beyond their 95% utilization distribution (UD) overall home ranges. Individual variation in the use of specific regions and habitats of Barataria Bay suggests the occurrence of community structure. All but 3 of the dolphins (93%) were tracked or observed during more than 1 yr in Barataria Bay, with 20 (45%) recorded each year from 2010 to 2014. All but 6 dolphins (86%) were tracked during multiple seasons. Home range sizes were comparable to those reported for bottlenose dolphins elsewhere. These findings suggest the occurrence of long-term, year-round residency. Residency patterns suggest potential for continued exposure to petroleum-associated products that may have remained in Barataria Bay after the spill.


KEY WORDS: Bottlenose dolphins · Satellite-linked telemetry · Ranging patterns · Deepwater Horizon oil spill · Home ranges · Site fidelity


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Cite this article as: Wells RS, Schwacke LH, Rowles TK, Balmer BC and others (2017) Ranging patterns of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Endang Species Res 33:159-180. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00732

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