With heavy hearts, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium announced on November 11, 2021 that Winter the Dolphin died at approximately 8 p.m. as animal care experts from around the country worked to treat her gastrointestinal abnormality. During preparation for a procedure, the CMA Animal Care team observed that Winter’s behavior and vital signs were declining. The medical team tried several life-saving efforts, but she died being held by her caregivers.
“While we are heartbroken by Winter’s death, we are comforted knowing that our team did everything possible to give her the best chance at survival. We worked with specialists and marine mammal experts from around the country to provide her with the best care available. Our staff worked around the clock during this challenging time,” said Veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt, DVM, CVA. “I’m honored to work alongside such dedicated and talented professionals who gave their all for Winter.”
During a press conference on Sunday, the CMA clarified what the gastrointestinal abnormalities meant. The dolphin’s necropsy showed that Winter died of intestinal torsion, a condition in which the intestines randomly twist on themselves and block blood flow to the area.
Bottlenose dolphins typically have a lifespan of 40 to 60 years or more.
Winter had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the country and was widely loved. Over the weekend people left flowers and drawings at the entrance of the aquarium forming a makeshift memorial. “Winter’s impact was international. We’re so privileged to have 16 long years with her,” a CMA official stated.
Winter is a bottlenose dolphin and she was found when she was two months old tangled in a crab trap line, which cut circulation to her tail flukes. This eventually led to a deterioration and loss of her tail. While most dolphins in this situation wouldn’t survive, with a prosthetic tail, Winter adapted to her new physical form and made a complete recovery! Winter was found in December, so she was named after the chilly winter season.
Winter’s life inspired the movie Dolphin Tale and the sequel. When Dolphin Tale was filmed in 2010, Winter was only five years old, making her the youngest star on set. While nobody knows her true date of birth, the CMA estimates it to be October 10, 2005.
Did you know that one of our own Hernando County residents was also in the movie? Cayla Brady booked the role of stand-in/photo double for the feature film, Dolphin Tale, filmed in Clearwater, Florida. She then returned for Dolphin Tale 2 as a Clearwater Marine Volunteer.
From Saturday, Nov. 20 through Nov. 24, CMA is inviting fans and extended family of CMA to celebrate Winter’s life. Guests who join in the celebration of life are encouraged to bring their memories of Winter. They’ll be able to visit the Ruth & J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex that Winter helped build and see all of the non-releasable animals at CMA. During the Celebration of Life, there will be flower arrangements, visual tributes, a special presentation, original footage of Winter’s rescue and more. One of Winter’s trainers stated, “She was a teacher, she was a friend, she was special.”
Admission on Saturday, Nov. 20, and Sunday, Nov. 21, will be reduced to $16 in Winter’s honor. A portion of the proceeds from tickets bought on these two days will go toward the “care of our rescued and resident animals as well as our mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release marine life,” CMA says.
Now a single rose lies in front of Winter’s exhibit. The aquarium stated they are going to keep her pool empty in Winter’s memory. “The CMA team expresses our deepest gratitude to the thousands of people from around the world who sent caring messages for Winter. She truly inspired hope and was loved by millions of people worldwide. Winter, we love you,” CMA stated.