(GULFPORT, Miss.) - It was happening around this time last year, and now it is happening again; dead dolphins washing up on area shorelines.
Marine biologists are again trying to figure out what's causing the abnormally large number of dolphins to die. In the past two years, 250 dolphins have been found dead between Alabama and Mississippi.
A dolphin found near Fort Morgan last week could be the next big clue in solving a deadly trend.
Animal Trainer Kelly Pulis said the dolphin named Chance is lucky to be alive.
"It had repeatedly beached itself over and over again," Pulis said, "so we got a call that it was in distress. So when they went to get it it was definitely in critical condition; very heavily scratched and abrasions and things like that."
Pulis said Chance is now active, and eating on its own. Institute of Marine Mammal Studies Director Moby Solangi said Chance is a scientific breakthrough.
"The first one live that we have encountered in the last two years is the one we have here," Solangi said.
The same week, Solangi said, two other dolphins washed up dead in the same spot. The recent strandings have been odd as well. All of the beached dolphins found so far have been a year old or less, and it is all happening at a time of year when dolphin deaths are not typical.
Solangi said it could be a number for a number of reasons.
"Bacterial, fungal diseases, wild diseases, toxins," Solangi said, "and you can't overlook the fact that, during the last 12 months, the major intervening was that of the BP Oil Spill."
Solangi said Chance gives them another shot at finding out what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Being the first live animal, and being sick, it might give us some clues," Solangi said. "It might not be the end-all, but it is one part of solving the puzzle."
Solangi said it could be another year or two before they find out what is causing the deaths. The investigation has been taken over by federal authorities.