Belfast Telegraph

Dolphin causing a splash in Strabane

By Donna Deeney

A young dolphin – or perhaps porpoise – is causing quite a stir in the most unlikely of places.

Spectators are flooding to the Foyle riverbanks on the outskirts of Strabane to see it.

The mammal is nearly 30 miles from its home at sea and is swimming up and down in a 100-yard stretch of water.

Nicknamed Flipper by locals, it was first spotted by fisherman Danny Hunter last Sunday when he was out checking the water levels and fish supply with his son Graham.

To their absolute amazement it wasn't salmon or trout they ended up looking at, but instead a rather unexpected visitor.

They were walking along the riverbank when they heard strange breathing and spotted a glossy back and fin.

Mr Hunter said: "Nobody has seen its nose, so we're not sure if it is a dolphin or a porpoise."

It's thought it ended up in the river on the hunt for salmon when the water levels were high.

An experience angler who understands the ebbs and flows of the tides, Mr Hunter thinks Flipper may actually be in Strabane against its will.

He said: "There is a low level of water in the stretch where it is which won't rise again until the next full moon on July 26.

"I think it has gotten stuck because there is a sandbank below it, so it will need the high tide to get back out into the lough."

He added: "In the meantime, the kids are really enjoying seeing it.

"I'm 56, I've been fishing here since I was six-years-old, and I've never seen anything like it.

"This is not what anyone would expect to come across on a Sunday evening in Strabane.

"And even though Flipper is feasting on the few salmon in the river which is not what a fisherman wants to see, it is nonetheless brilliant for the town to see so many people coming here each night.

"Last night, it was just choc-a-bloc with people. It's absolutely brilliant for the town," Mr Hunter said.

"One man who had brought his children to watch it told me he had paid 60 euros while on holiday to watch dolphins, but he would have kept his money in his pocket if he had known that this one was here.

"My son Graham was the first to actually see it and we just stood there amazed.

"We thought we were lucky to get the pictures of it because we were waiting on it to disappear over the horizon again, but it stayed, although now I think it is stuck.

"I reckon if it hasn't made its way back out to the lough after the next high tide, the Rivers Agency might look at helping it.

"I know doing that may not please the kids, but ultimately Flipper might well be happier in the long run."

Factfile

There are a number of dolphin species that live in rivers, but in general, salt water species don't do well in fresh water. They can survive for some time, but they will become exhausted, since they have less buoyancy in fresh water. And after a while their skin will start to sag, just like our own skin after spending a long time in the bathtub.

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