The Dolphin Who Inspired 'Dolphin Tale' Has Died — Leaving A Legacy Of Perserverance

Winter was known for her prosthetic tail.

Winter the Dolphin Clearwater Marine Aquarium/Facebook

Winter, the 16-year-old Dolphin, has died. Winter was a bottlenose Dolphin rescued along the coasts of Florida in 2005.

She was the inspiration behind the book ‘Dolphin Tale’ and the movies adapted from it. Winter died on Nov. 11 at around 8 p.m. after struggling through intestinal issues.

According to the staff at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Winter had been having gastrointestinal issues for a while now, however it recently worsened.


How did Winter the Dolphin die?

Winter had a gastrointestinal infection and had been going through medication and treatment. It seems her death was sudden as she was going to have surgery and showed no signs of distress. 

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The first signs of Winter’s poor health condition were noticed on Nov. 1 when she showed little to no interest in eating and her behavior seemed different.

The Aquarium staff and veterinarians treated her and did everything they could but she finally gave out. Although Winter’s death was devastating, the staff at the aquarium felt content that they helped Winter as much as they could.


Dr. Shelly Marquardt, a veterinarian who treated Winter said “While we are heartbroken by Winter’s death, we are comforted knowing that our team did everything possible to give her the best chance at survival. We worked with specialists and marine mammal experts from around the country to provide her with the best care available. Our staff worked around the clock during this challenging time”

She was rescued in December 2005.

Winter was only 2 months old when she was caught in a crab trap rope.

She was discovered by a fisherman near the coast of Florida and was taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA). Upon discovering the crab trap rope had tightly caught around her tail, the aquarium staff had to have her tail cut off as it had been restricting blood flow to the tail.

Winter survived and learned to swim a different way without her tail. Winter’s story of survival caught the eyes of many and she became quite popular.


Winter was given a prosthetic tail.

An expert team from “Hanger clinic” built a prosthetic tail for Winter. They spent 18 months developing it before giving it to Winter.

The experts struggled with creating it and encountered multiple challenges. Kevin Carroll, the Vice President of lower extremity prosthetics at Hanger clinic mentioned their struggles.

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“When we fit a socket on a person, we have one long, solid bone, and the socket isn’t moving in every direction. With a dolphin, it needs to move along with her full spine.”

They created a new gel liner “WintersGel” for Winter’s tail and it has also proven to help human patients.


She was an inspiration to everyone.

Because of Winter’s will to carry on, she became an inspiration and hope to a lot of people.

Her story was inspired the book “Dolphin Tale”. The book also developed into a movie with the same name in 2011 and its sequel in 2014.

The films starred Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble, Kris Kristofferson, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, and Morgan Freeman along with Winter. Along with Winter, the sequel also features Hope, another Dolphin rescued by CMA. The movies helped in Winter’s popularity and her story grabbed more attention. It also did wonders for the promotions and tourism of CMA.


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Sanika Nalgirkar, M.F.A. is a writer and an Editorial Intern at YourTango who writes on entertainment & news, lifestyle, and pop culture topics.