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NORTH KINGSTOWNâNorth Kingstown received a different kind of tourist on July 4 when a Risso dolphin showed up in the waters of Hamilton Cove, The dolphin, which typically travels nearer to the continental shelf, was spotted by Harbormaster Ed Hughes.
âMy assistant Keith called me and said he had seen a dolphin,â said Hughes. âI met with him and went out to take a look. I was surprised because I have seen dolphins all over the world, but I didnât know what it was.â
âAt first thought it was a pilot whale, but that didnât fit,â he added. âIt was a unique looking animal.â
After snapping a few photographs, Hughes relayed the sighting to researchers at Mystic Aquarium. Jacinta Simoncini, a scientist at the aquarium, stated that although it is uncommon for the Risso dolphin to travel so close to land, the occurrence is not altogether unusual.
âThe animal was wild swimming in very deep water,â said Simoncini. âThey have a broad range and can be found along the East Coast year round, but [are] more uncommon north of Cape Cod.â
âHowever, stranding and sighting reports are minimal in our region,â she added. âThey can also be found in tropical and warm-temperate waters.Â â
Simoncini said that the last time a Risso dolphin was seen in waters along the East Coast was in 2005. According to both Hughes and Simoncini, no other sightings have been reported in Rhode Island waters recently.
Risso dolphins are noticeable because of the scars on their backsides, which occur while hunting for squid in the deep waters off the continental shelf. Simoncini also noted that it was unusual that this dolphin in particular was traveling alone
âDolphins travel with other individuals, anywhere from 12 to 45,â she said. âIt is unusual that it was by itself.â
Although he had never seen one before, Hughes is glad that he hasnât seen this Fourth of July visitor again.
âI have checked in the last couple of days to make sure it didnât wash up on the beach and so far havenât seen anything, so that is a good sign,â said Hughes. âHopefully, it was just taking a detour.â