Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

sea turtle with tracking tag swimming

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs about Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Where does CMA get its funding?

Funding comes from admission and program fees, grants, and donations.

Does CMA have a full-time vet?

Yes, our full-time veterinarian is Dr. Shelly Marquardt.

What do we feed our animals?

We use frozen restaurant quality fish, which allows us to keep a high standard of food quality for our animals.

How would one become an animal care specialist?

Most of our animal care specialists recommend courses in psychology, and biology fields, such as marine biology, zoology and general biology. Volunteering and/or interning at a facility such as ours is also very helpful.

Does CMA rescue manatees?

Yes, we can assist with the rescue of manatees, but we don’t have the space and permits needed to rehab them or care for them as residents.

How many volunteers does CMA currently have?

CMA has about 600-900 volunteers and interns on the rolls at any given time. The higher numbers are during the summer, with our junior volunteers, and during turtle nesting season. We have many staff members who also volunteer in another department on a weekly basis! For more information on becoming a volunteer or intern, visit our volunteer section.

What lab procedures are we able to do on-site in our lab?

We can perform cytology, blood cell counts, hematocrits (PCV), total protein values, blood glucose, examine fecal samples and test gastric samples for salinity.

Can I touch the dolphins?

If you would like to learn more about our animal encounter programs, please visit our guest services office or book online. Our programs are not included with admission and are limited in quantity each day in accordance with each resident’s specific rehab plan.

Why can’t I bring food near the animals?

Human food is very bad for our animals and there’s a possibility it could spill from a container and fall into one of their pools. Also, food often comes in packaging that could be harmful to our dolphins, otters and turtles if ingested. For these reasons, we ask our guests to enjoy their food on the first floor only, and away from the animal exhibits.

Why are the otters separated?

Cooper and Walle have been separated for a variety of reasons: Cooper was struck by a motor vehicle and suffered paralysis as a result, so his habitat is modified specifically to accommodate his disability.Cooper is a lot older than Walle, which means Walle is much more active than Cooper. Out in the wild, otters tend to be territorial, so we would not want to put them in a situation here where they would feel the need to defend their territory.

Although they are not together in the same habitat, they do have holes through the divider, which allows them to experience each other safely.

FAQs About Winter the Dolphin

Is Winter a boy or a girl?

She is a female dolphin, just like her best friend Hope.

Who is Winter’s companion?

Winter lives in an environment with Hope, our newest dolphin resident.

How old was she when she was found?

She was just two months old. Normally, baby dolphins, called calves, will stay with their mothers for one to three years, but Winter was all alone.

Who found Winter when she was tangled up in the crab trap line?

A fisherman found her, and cut the line and called a rescue team. She was close to the surface when she was tangled up – otherwise, she wouldn’t have been able to breathe.

Who rescued Winter?

Rescue teams from Harbor Branch Institute and Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute worked with Clearwater Marine Aquarium to save Winter and bring her to CMA. They also rescued CMA’s newest dolphin resident, Hope.

How did Winter get her name?

She was found in the month of December, so was named after the chilly season in which she was rehabilitated.

When is her birthday?

While no one knows her true date of birth, the team at CMA estimated her birthday to be October 10, 2005, as she was only two months old when she was rescued. When filming the movie in 2010, she was only five, making her the youngest movie star on set!

What is her favorite food?

That one is a tie – she likes capelin and silversides, two different types of fish she is fed at CMA. She was still drinking milk when she arrived at CMA, so has never had to hunt for fish.

What is her favorite toy?

She loves floating around on her mat.

How does Winter feel about all the attention she receives?

Winter enjoys the attention she gets from all the guests that come to visit her, as heard through her characteristic “tweety-bird” whistle!  However, at times she will choose to rest in various locations of the pool, including underwater, or in a portion of the habitat where she is less visible. It is our goal to afford Winter, and all of our animals, an opportunity to make these choices as they see fit!

What was it like filming Dolphin Tale?

The limelight suited her well. The big cameras and lights were a change for her, but her trainers worked for a long time before the movie crew arrived to get her used to all that new equipment. Once filming began, Winter had a great time.

Where can I learn more about Winter?

You can visit Winter every day at Clearwater Marine Aquarium for a great opportunity to learn more about her and her story. Following Winter on Facebook or signing up for our newsletter are other great ways to get the latest updates on her progress. You can also watch her online via her live webcam.

FAQs about Winter's Tail

Was it difficult for Winter to get her first prosthetic tail?

Her trainers worked really hard to make sure she was comfortable with the tail before they put it on. The trainers and Winter worked together to exercise and practice moving her tail stump up and down without the tail so that she would be strong enough to wear it. Then, once the first tail was ready, they allowed her to check it out and get used to the new and strange object before sliding it on.

How have the tails changed over time?

The first tail was a lot smaller than the ones she wears today, because she was a lot smaller then too! As she grew, they kept making the tails larger, just like you might get new shoes when your feet get bigger. With each new tail model, they try new things, making it more comfortable and beneficial for her to wear.

Does Winter like wearing her tail?

Wearing the tail is hard work because it makes Winter exercise a part of her body she does not normally use. It is important for her to do this and it is getting easier with more practice.

How often does she wear the tail?

Winter’s tail is for physical therapy – to keep her spine and muscles healthy by exercising and stretching them. She only wears the tail for about an hour or less every day.

Why doesn’t Winter wear her tail all the time?

Winter swims just fine without the tail. It is used for physical therapy to help reduce the curvature of her back area (the peduncle) caused by her side-to-side swimming motion. Also, dolphin skin is incredibly sensitive. Like other bottlenose dolphins, Winter sheds a layer of skin every two hours. If she wore the tail too long, it could actually hurt her skin and make the tail uncomfortable.

Can Winter swim without her tail?

Yes, in a side-to-side motion. She learned how to do this by herself but she does need to wear her tail to keep her muscles and spine healthy.

How awesome is this Winter Dolphin Halloween costume?! What are you and your family dressing up as this year?

Don’t forget- we are just one week away from Winter’s Trick or Tweet event! Kids 12 and under wearing a costume will receive $9.99 admission! Details: bit.ly/2hHGual
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