NORTH KINGSTOWN—North 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.
“My assistant Keith called me and said he had seen a dolphin,” said Hughes. “I met with him and went out to take a look. I was surprised because I have seen dolphins all over the world, but I didn’t know what it was.”
“At first thought it was a pilot whale, but that didn’t fit,” he added. “It was a unique looking animal.”
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.
“The animal was wild swimming in very deep water,” said Simoncini. “They have a broad range and can be found along the East Coast year round, but [are] more uncommon north of Cape Cod.”
“However, stranding and sighting reports are minimal in our region,” she added. “They can also be found in tropical and warm-temperate waters. “
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
“Dolphins travel with other individuals, anywhere from 12 to 45,” she said. “It is unusual that it was by itself.”
Although he had never seen one before, Hughes is glad that he hasn’t seen this Fourth of July visitor again.
“I have checked in the last couple of days to make sure it didn’t wash up on the beach and so far haven’t seen anything, so that is a good sign,” said Hughes. “Hopefully, it was just taking a detour.”