Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief
SLIDELL, La. - Neighbors in Lakeshore Estates near Slidell are concerned for a wild dolphin living in their waters.
The dolphin frequently swims alongside boats entering the waterway where he lives.
"I've been around hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and thousands of dolphins being a commercial fisherman," Lakeshore Estates homeowner Tony Goutierez said Thursday. "I've never seen anything like this."
The dolphin could easily swim out of Lakeshore Estates and into the open waters of Lake Pontchartrain and beyond, but he doesn't.
The dolphin has remained in Lakeshore Estates waters, at least since Katrina.
"And so the legend goes amongst the residents here," Suzanne Smith of the Audubon Institute said, "that once upon a time, before Katrina, here were two other dolphins that were swimming with a baby. And after Katrina, two of the adults were gone, and this baby stuck around."
Suzanne Smith has taken a personal interest in the welfare of the dolphin.
She is the Program Coordinator for the Louisiana Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program.
According to Suzanne Smith, the Lakeshore Estates dolphin is now a full grown young male, with everything he needs at close proximity, except a mate.
"If the legend of the residents actually pans out correctly," Smith adds, "it would be about that time when he is coming into his own and you can see, he's getting a little bit amorous."
That amorous, friendly nature is now what worries neighbors. Outsiders are bringing their boats into the neighborhood, according to residents, and are getting too close to the dolphin, and illegally feeding him.
"I'm worried about him drifting, cutting his fin with the outboard motors," Tony Goutierez said.
"He could be sliced on this dorsal fin," Suzanne Smith added. "He could be sliced on his tail fluke, and he needs those to get around."
It's not only the dolphin who could be hurt, people interacting could be hurt as well.
Even though the dolphin is friendly and amorous, Suzanne Smith wants people to remember, he is a wild animal.
"He is definitely biting," Smith said. "Little kids have been bitten and adults have been bitten as well."
There is no good reason to feed the dolphin because according to Suzanne Smith, he has plenty of fish to eat in Lakeshore Estates waters.
It is actually a federal crime to feed a wild dolphin, punishable by fines from $10,000 to $20,000.
"He is beautiful. He is amazing, but we do have federal laws that protect him," Suzanne Smith said. "Stay back and observe him from a safe distance."
Suzanne Smith advised keeping 50 yards away.
Neighbors want more patrols from law enforcement boats, and they want federal fines enforced.
"All they need is one or two of them," Durel Landry of Lakeshore Estates said, "and we're not going to have a problem again."
Neighbors said, they want the dolphin to live a long healthy life, like any other neighbor.
"This is his home," Suzanne Smith said. "This is where he lives."