Breaking News
More () »

UPDATE: Winter the Dolphin dies Thursday at age 16

The 16-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin had been receiving around-the-clock care since falling ill.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — UPDATE: Winter the Dolphin, whose story inspired millions, died Thursday at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Learn more here.

Previous story below:

Winter the Dolphin, who fell ill a little more than a week ago, does not appear to be getting better, despite receiving around-the-clock care.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium announced Wednesday that Winter's condition is now considered to be "critical" after her intestinal abnormalities "intensified."

"The dedicated CMA animal care experts are consulting with top animal care and veterinary specialists in the country and exploring all possible options to save Winter’s life," CMA wrote in an email.

Dr. James “Buddy” Powell, president of Clearwater Marine Aquarium, gave an update on Winter's condition in an interview Thursday. 

He said although she is doing well behaviorally, tests and examinations show that Winter's intestinal abnormality is not "responding to treatment like we would like."

“Winter is certainly loved and adored by the public as well as everyone here at the aquarium,” Powell added. "We're concerned, and we're gonna do absolutely everything possible we can to aid in her recovery."

Specialists from around the country are expected to arrive to assist with Winter's care and make a plan for her future treatment.

“Like everyone here, we care deeply about Winter. She’s an absolutely remarkable animal, she’s inspired so many lives and the outpouring of care for her has been tremendous. We’ve gotten videos and we’ve gotten postcards and emails. So, yeah, we’re very concerned about her, but we’re gonna have to wait and see what those next medical steps are," Powell said during an afternoon news conference.

Caretakers of the 16-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, made famous by the "Dolphin Tale" movie franchise, say they first noticed she wasn't acting like herself and had lost her appetite. They immediately began working to determine what was wrong. 

Veterinary staff believes Winter is likely fighting a gastrointestinal infection. She has had them before, just not usually this serious. Her intestines and organs are a bit out of place from losing her tail flukes, which could be a contributing factor to the health issues.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium says it will be temporarily closed to the public on Friday, Nov. 12, to "create the best possible environment for her medical team" as they care for Winter. The facility plans to reopen at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13.

Powell compared the decision to close the facility to the same experience anyone would get if they were in the hospital or emergency room where limited visitors are allowed.

The goal is for there to be the least amount of distractions possible so the focus can remain on Winter's health. 

“It’s just gonna be better for everybody," Powell explained.

"On behalf of the CMA staff and Winter’s care team, we thank everyone for the incredible outpour of love and support you have shown Winter since her rescue in 2005 and especially these last few days. Many are inspired by her resiliency and this amazing response reminds us of how deeply she has affected millions, including so many on their own health journey," a press release reads.

Winter's story has inspired those near and far after she was rescued on Dec. 10, 2005, in a place called Mosquito Lagoon. It's on Florida's east coast, not that far from Cape Canaveral. 

A fisherman named Jim Savage was out on his boat when he spotted a crab trap buoy that was bobbing against the current. When he went to investigate, he found Winter, at the time a dolphin calf, wrapped up in the rope of that crab trap.

Following her rescue, Winter was taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium where caretakers came to a heartbreaking realization. The rope of that crab trap had been so firmly wound around her peduncle that it had cut off all the blood supply to her tail flukes. 

But the difficult situation didn't keep Winter down.

Together, the staff at Clearwater Marine Aquarium watched as Winter healed without her tail flukes and figured out a new way to swim on her own. Unlike the up-and-down tail motion she'd done before, she figured out how to wiggle side to side – swimming more like a shark traditionally would.

Ever since, she's been inspiring people across the country with her resiliency.

Winter gives hope to people with prosthetics. She wears her prosthetic tail during physical therapy sessions with her care team.