Winter the Dolphin

Winter the Dolphin

Winter the dolphin

Winter the Dolphin

Winter’s Survival Story

Winter was found stranded in Mosquito Lagoon, near Cape Canaveral, Florida when she was only two months old, entangled in a crab trap line which cut off circulation to her tail flukes. After disentanglement, she was transported to Clearwater Marine Aquarium for treatment of her extensive injuries. However, despite exhaustive efforts to promote healing, her tail deteriorated and could not be saved. Her story is unusual – most dolphins trapped in monofilament and crab trap lines do not survive. Despite overwhelming odds against survival, Winter’s energy and ability to adapt to her new physical form surpassed expectations. She recovered completely, adapted to a new swim pattern and learned to eat fish on her own… about 12 pounds a day!


Lasting Lesson to Protect Marine Life

Winter’s case was one of the most difficult for CMA. Her story is a bittersweet realization of the dangers faced by animals as a result of human activities in the wild, such as fishery interactions. Through these types of interactions, dolphins and other marine life often become susceptible to entanglement and digestion of fishing line or other gear that can cause them to become injured, ill or potentially lead to their death. In order to mitigate these impacts and conserve these species, it is critical for us to do our part and keep our oceans clean and recycle and promote laws and regulations that improve upon fishing practices. Together, we can make a difference!

Winter's Tail Technology

Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, Inc., together with Dr. Mike Walsh, CMA’s marine mammal veterinarian of record, and our world-class marine mammal trainers, created a unique plan to attach a prosthetic tail to Winter.

Winter is missing her entire tail fluke and joint. Tail flukes are the powerhouse of the dolphin and are attached to the peduncle, the muscular part of the dolphin. To swim naturally, a dolphin moves the peduncle up and down and the tail flukes propel the dolphin forward.

Attaching a prosthetic tail with a complete fluke and joint onto a dolphin had never been done before. Over the course of several months, Winter learned the correct body position to be fitted for a stretchy, plastic sleeve, very like those used in human prosthetics.

When the sleeve is in place, we can put the prosthetic on top of it and attach the fluke to her peduncle.

Once the prosthetic is in place, we check to ensure a snug and comfortable fit. We then ask Winter to swim around the pool and re-check the fit of the tail before we start any workout.

Without her prosthetic, Winter compensates for the absence of flukes by utilizing her entire body to propel herself forward, moving side to side like a shark. The prosthetic is a cue or “discriminative stimulus,” encouraging her 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.

Winter’s tail is constantly being researched and modified, which in turn continually teaches us about adapting prostheses to new and different challenges.

More Facts About Winter

Species: Atlantic bottlenose dolphin

Sex: Female

Origin: Mosquito Lagoon, FL

Date Rescued: December 10, 2005

Age: 12 (Birthday: Est. October 10, 2005)

Diet: Capelin, silversides and herring

Winter Inspires

Winter and the story of her prosthetic tail has inspired millions to persevere through life’s toughest obstacles. Learn more about the lives she’s touched and their own inspirational stories. 

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.

20 hours ago

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Whale, whale, whale…what do we have here?🐋

National Geographic
Three humpback whales investigate a boat, giving passengers the show of a lifetime.
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Dolphin webcam

Watch Live Webcams of Winter, Hope, Nicholas, Otters, Sea Turtles and Pelicans!

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Daily Presentations (Winter Zone):
You can see Winter and Hope any time of the day when we are open. Presentation times change daily.

Daily Presentations (Stranding Deck):
The Stranding Deck is home to Nicholas the Dolphin.

  • Dolphin Anatomy Game —10:00 am, 2:00 pm
  • Resident Dolphin Talk — 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm
  • Rescue Demonstration — 12:00 pm, 4:00 pm
  • Tail Talk — 12:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:30 pm
All presentations are subject to change in location and time due to scheduling and weather.
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Winter Zone

Winter and Hope

Stranding Deck



Dolphin Care Experience
Work next to a CMA Animal Care Specialist. Includes feeding and poolside activity with a resident dolphin.

Dolphin and Animal Care Assistant
Assist with dolphin, otter and pelican care for a day, including food preparation and animal enrichment.

Dolphin Photo Opportunities
Have your photo taken with one of our resident dolphins. Includes a souvenir photo.


Dolphin Tale movie poster with cast above and Sawyer swimming toward Winter the dolphinDolphin Tale 2 movie poster with Winter and Hope meeting and cast below

Dolphin Tale was produced by Warner Brothers and Alcon Entertainment and released nationwide in theaters around the world on September 23, 2011. Winter played herself in Dolphin Tale, together with Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Harry Connick, Jr., Kris Kristofferson, Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Nathan Gamble. CMA was closed to the public for three months while filming was underway; however, CMA remained a 24-hour working animal hospital during this time.
Read more about the Dolphin Tale movies.


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