NEWSLETTER
Stay up to date with Winter!
Adopt an Animal Today

WINTER'S STORY

Winter has inspired millions of people of all ages across the world.

Tell us your story of how Winter has made a difference in your life.

WRDL 3013H MEET WINTER FRI from Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Vimeo.

"Winter" is our most famous dolphin. You may have seen her featured on the NBC Today Show, CNN, BBC, or possibly the #1 box office hit Dolphin Tale, in theaters around the world. Winter was one of the most difficult strandings we have had at CMA. Her story is a bittersweet realization of the dangers these animals face as a result of human activity in the wild.

At only three months of age, Winter found herself wrapped tightly in a crab trap line and was unable to escape. She was rescued from Mosquito Lagoon (near Cape Canaveral) and transported to CMA to begin a long rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Winter lost her entire tail as well as two vertebrae a result of the serious injuries that she had sustained.

Although her story is intriguing, it is also very rare, as many dolphins unfortunately die in monofilament and crab trap lines. Despite the odds against survival, Winter's energy and ability to adapt to her new physical form has surpassed the expectations of many experts. Winter has done amazingly well in the short time since her stranding. She has completely healed, adapted to a new swim pattern, and learned to eat fish on her own... about twelve pounds a day! She is growing quickly, and now weighs in at 230 pounds!

Come and visit Winter... she may have lost her tail, but she'll capture your heart!

Adopt an Animal Today

Winter's Tails

The collaborative efforts of Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, Inc., a leading human prosthetics company, with Dr. Mike Walsh, a leading marine mammal veterinarian, and CMA's world-class marine mammal trainers, created one well-thought-out plan of action. How, you might ask, does one go about preparing a dolphin for a prosthetic tail? It certainly is challenging: attaching a complete fluke and joint onto an inexperienced dolphin had never been done before, but it was a challenge we felt good about! When we first started to train Winter to allow us to put the prosthetic on her body, we found Winter took to the process quite well. However, the series of approximations, or learning steps took some time. Over the course of several months, Winter learned the correct body position to be fitted for a stretchy, plastic sleeve, one that is also used for human prosthetics. Her trainers have creatively fashioned a more form-fitting version of the sleeve – it works wonders although it looks strange to say the least! The sleeve, in its original form, is ultimately used to attach the prosthetic fluke to her peduncle. After the sleeve is in place on her peduncle, the muscular part of a dolphin before the tail-flukes, we are in turn able to put the prosthetic on top of the sleeve. Once the prosthetic is in place, we check to ensure a snug and comfortable fit. We will ask Winter to swim with the prosthetic for a lap or two around the pool and re-check the fit of the tail before we start the workout! Tail flukes are the powerhouse of the dolphin. Without her prosthetic, to compensate for the absence of flukes, Winter utilizes her entire body in order to propel herself forward, moving from side-to-side like a shark. Behaviorally, our goal is to use the prosthetic as a cue or "discriminative stimulus" to swim in a normal up-and-down fashion working all muscles that surround the peduncle while still maintaining her ability to swim comfortably when the prosthetic is off. In our latest sessions, we attempt to convey the idea that calm behavior is the name of the game; persuading a playful animal to pay attention is like trying to get a pre-schooler to be studious. Our training process with the prosthetic tail is an ongoing process. As mentioned earlier, it takes many creative minds to build what is ultimately the best for the animal. This is why the dedication and the creative minds of the trainers, the veterinarian, and Hanger prosthetics are an invaluable resource to the ongoing care of our beloved Winter!

Putting Winter's Tails On...

The many steps to putting on Winter's tail start with a "sock." This is what we call the famous "Winter's Gel." The sock is a very soft rubbery material that has helped many veterans and amputees reduce the pain of their prostheses. The sock reduces skin friction and helps the tail stay on. Next the "cup" is placed just at the base of Winter's peduncle, above the fluke. The cup is molded to fit the peduncle exactly. The main suspension strap is then secured. Next the sleeve is pulled over the entire tail to secure everything. And finally a newer feature to Winter's tail, the rubber band, is placed right at the end of the tail, next to her body.

What are the changes compared to her last tail?

The cup that fits on the end of her tail has been modified to be deeper on the dorsal-ventral side and is thinner in general. The flukes are thicker at the leading edges and thinner at the trailing edges and the main suspension strap is lined with non-slip foam and is held together with velcro. The main lateral struts have embedded polypropylene rods. The tail also has stabilizing cross-member straps connecting to the cup which result in a double-tripod design.

What are the future tail modifications?

We are going to modify this prototype by removing the cross-member straps. The new tail will have the main lateral struts hinged closer to the main suspension strap, so the stabilizing cross-member straps will not be needed.

HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT WINTER? Check out our FAQ's!

YOU can help Winter the Dolphin
Order your Dolphin Tale DVD or Blu-ray today