A 2 1/2-foot-long cetacean remains stranded on Salamatof Beach near Nikiski on Saturday, despite several attempts to push a baby porpoise back into Cook Inlet. The animal has since been rescued and is being cared for at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Hudkins
A group of setnetters on Salamatof Beach near Nikiski tried repeatedly to push a baby porpoise back into the water, but each time the heavy surf and rising tide pushed it back onto the beach.
“My daughter, Shayla, asked, ‘Isn’t there anything else we can do?’” said Sarah Hudkins on Monday.
“I decided to just try calling the (Alaska) SeaLife Center direct and see if they could help,” Hudkins said.
A helper for the commercial fishermen, Dino Mays, had been riding a three-wheeler on the beach Saturday evening when he spotted a bunch of sea gulls circling over something on the sand.
Mays approached and found the 2 1/2-foot long baby porpoise.
He ran up to the fish camp overlooking Cook Inlet and told Hudkins and other family members what he had discovered.
“We all ran down to the beach,” Hudkins said, of herself, her 12-year-old daughter, her father Lars Frostad and other family members.
“That’s the first time, in all these years, I’ve ever seen a porpoise on this side (of the inlet). I knew they were in there; I just never saw one over here,” she said.
Hudkins called the SeaLife Center at around 7 p.m. and within 30 minutes a veterinarian was on the phone telling her how the porpoise should be cared for until rescuers arrived from Seward.
“My daughter just stayed with the porpoise the whole time,” she said.
The veterinarian told the setnetters to place the porpoise in one of their fish totes with burlap sacks or sheets on the bottom.
“We were surprised that we weren’t supposed to put any water in the tote. He did say to wet the sheets with sea water and told us to hold our hand over its blow hole so water wouldn’t get in,” she said.
Using a tractor, Frostad carried the tote up to the family fish camp so people from the SeaLife Center could find it easier.
Rescuers arrived at the fish camp not far from the Blue Grouse Restaurant on the Kenai Spur Highway at 10:30 or 11 p.m., she said.
“Shayla stayed with the porpoise the whole time,” Hudkins said.
“The people from the SeaLife Center were so nice,” she said.
“They told Shayla she did everything right, and if it has a chance of surviving, it’s because of her.
“They even named it ‘Shay-lino’ after her and Dino,” Hudkins said.
“On Sunday morning (SeaLife Center rescuers) called and said the porpoise was swimming around in one of their pools,” she said.
Shay-lino’s condition was described as “super dodgy” by Jason Wettstein of the SeaLife Center on Monday.
He said it is being monitored around the clock and biologists are trying to determine the cause of its beaching.
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