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Stranded Dolphin No More -- for A While

The animal stuck in the Bolsa Chica Wetlands swims out at high tide but appears to be scared and comes back to his "happy place."

Workers helped a stranded dolphin exit the shallow waters of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and swim into open water today, only to see it flee from two other dolphins and return to the cul-de-sac lagoon.

"It looked scared, but it swam well," said marine biologist Peter Wallerstein of the Marine Animal Rescue organization, who was in the water trying to shoo the dolphin under a small bridge beneath Warner Avenue. The dolphin encountered two other dolphins about 200 yards into the Huntington Harbor channel, and then apparently hid by passing back under the street.

Biologists are still stationed along the cul-de-sac lagoon where the dolphin first attracted bystanders, and then helicopter TV crews last week. They had been readying plans to trap the marine mammal and relocate it at sea, if it didn't follow their urgings to leave the shallow water.

On Friday, the consensus was that the dolphin is "a healthy, adult animal."

It had first been spotted swimming with five other dolphins in Huntington Harbor, according to Kelli Lewis of the Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. "It is most likely that this pod was after schooling fish when they entered the harbor," said Dean Gomersall, an animal care supervisor at the mammal center, on Friday.

During high tide Friday, the one dolphin swam under Warner Avernue's small bridge and into a very-shallow wetlands area. California Fish and Game officials called for help from the mammal center and the El Segundo-based nonprofit organization, Marine Animal Rescue.

The dolphin likely followed some fish into a "dead-end area" of the wetlands near Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, Wallerstein said.

Wallerstein urged curious onlookers to stay away.

"We just want people to be smart. If they go and observe, be quiet and don't get involved or get in the water," Wallerstein said, adding that too much noise or activity could make the dolphin anxious.

"Be smart and stay away," Wallerstein said.

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