Shark attack dolphin in Santa Rosa Beach: Residents attempted rescue

Savannah Chastain
Joe Locklar, Steve Meyer, and unidentified volunteer, and two Gulf World employees carry the injured dolphin on a specially designed sea-life stretcher.

It was just after 7 a.m. Thursday when Joe Locklar, who was gearing up for another routine day of construction work, noticed something stirring up in the water behind his father-in-law’s house on Shelter Cove Drive in Santa Rosa Beach. The stirring was an injured dolphin, struggling to fight off a school of shark and Locklar, his neighbor, and a group of workers wasted no time springing to action in effort to aid the ailing dolphin.

“One of the guys jumped in the water, and I was with her in the water the whole time,” said Locklar. “Myself, and three others stayed in the water, there were two on the pier, and one was in the canoe trying to keep the sharks away from us.”

Although the dolphin was able to swim, Locklar said the main issue was keeping the shark from further attacking the injured marine mammal.

“I don’t know if she was already injured and the sharks were trying to make dinner out of her, or if they injured her, but they were definitely trying to make a meal out of her,” he said. “We had six sharks that we had visuals on at any given time and they were anywhere from five to eight footers, that we kept at bay.”

Locklar said several animal rescue groups were called as well as the sheriff’s office, and finally, around 9:15 a.m., Gulf World Marine Park of Panama City Beach arrived on the scene.

“When Gulf World came in, we got her out of the water and she was bitten multiple times,” Locklar said. “There were three large wounds and bite marks all over her.”

Pam George, general manager of Gulf World answered a phone inquiry about the dolphin rescue saying, “We did respond to a dolphin stranding, but unfortunately when we arrived he had been bitten by sharks and he unfortunately did not make it.”

George was not one of the rescue responders, but said the rescue team was evaluating the cause of death.

 “We are in the process of doing a necropsy. It appears to be a shark attack, but I won’t know anything until we do the necropsy,” she said.

Locklar said the dolphin measured in at 7-feet, 6 inches when brought into the rescue vehicle, and at the time the animal left the scene it was still breathing.

 “We were just trying to save her,” he said.

During the necropsy, Gulf World employees determined that the injured sea animal was a male bottle-nosed dolphin.

“He had some major shark bites and was very emaciated,” said George. “The final results were that the cause of death was massive blood loss.”