Winter the Dolphin with the Prosthetic Tail Dies at 16

TWITTER Screen Shot/@CMAquarium

Winter, the movie star dolphin with a prosthetic tail, passed away Thursday night around 8 p.m. after a battle with intestinal issues. She was 16.

Located at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) in Florida, Winter had long battled a gastrointestinal abnormality. Her condition went critical on Wednesday night despite her receiving care from the nation’s top veterinary experts. 

Aquarium board chairperson Paul Auslander said that the medical team was performing a “last-ditch effort surgery” when Winter took a turn for the worse. 

He recalled, “She was pretty lively and feeling pretty good, and when they started to do all the preparations with the IV and taking blood and all of that, in medical terms, you’d say she stroked out.”

Heart failure is suspected, but a necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. 

“These are highly intelligent animals, and you got the feeling she’s been through a lot, and she didn’t want to go through it anymore,” he added.

CMA said in their official statement,

“During preparation for a procedure, the CMA Animal Care team observed that Winter’s behavior and vital signs were declining. The medical team tried several life-saving efforts, but she died being held by her caregivers.”

Winter made international waves after her story inspired two movies, “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2.” She starred as herself, alongside Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Harry Connick Jr.

Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard said, “It gave us worldwide recognition. And we literally had people coming from New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.  All over the globe to see Winter.”

When she was just two months old, Winter’s tail got caught in a crab trap. It cut off circulation to the point that doctors amputated it. Instead of euthanizing her, they opted to fit her with a prosthetic tail. The unprecedented move resulted in international fame for Winter and drew thousands of people to the aquarium to see her.

Then-CEO David Yates recalled, “Just about everyone we talked to in the marine industry at that time advised us listen, these dolphins don’t survive this, it’s not going to go well, so the bottom line is we suggest, and it was a pretty strong suggestion by multiple individuals to euthanize.”

Donning her prosthetic tail, Winter’s story touched the hearts of many but especially the children who, like her, were living with an amputation. She brought hope and joy to those who visited.

Yates said, “They saw this young dolphin who refused to give up and said, ‘You know what, if this dolphin can do this, I can do this.’ “

CMA is closed Friday to allow staff time to grieve. 

A memorial service will be held soon though the date is still to be determined. Anyone wishing to leave kind words or share a memory can visit RememberingWinter.com.

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