Winter (dolphin)

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Winter tailless bottlenose dolphin.jpg
Winter swimming without her tail
SpeciesTursiops truncatus
Borncirca October 2005 (age 14)
In or near Mosquito Lagoon, Florida
Notable roleHerself in Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2
Years active2005–present
Known forProsthetic tail
OwnerClearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida USA

Winter (born circa October 2005) is a bottlenose dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida, US, widely known for having a prosthetic tail. She is the subject of the book Dolphin Tale, and the 2011 film of the same name, a dramatization of her story, and the sequel Dolphin Tale 2. Winter was found in the coastal waters of Florida in December 2005, caught in a crab trap, which resulted in the loss of her tail. She was then taken to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The loss of her tail caused her to swim unnaturally with her tail moving side to side instead of up and down. As a result, she was fitted with a silicone-and-plastic tail that enabled her to swim normally. She has since become a highly popular attraction at the aquarium, which led to the film's creation. She lives in her pool with two other dolphins, Hope and P.J., the former who is the subject of the 2014 sequel to Dolphin Tale, Dolphin Tale 2.

Injury and discovery[edit]

Winter was found in the ropes of a crab trap on December 10, 2005,[1] in Mosquito Lagoon of the coastal waters of Florida. At the time of her rescue, she was estimated to be around two months old.

Winter received her name because she was found in December, traditionally considered a winter month, even though the exact date of her rescue (December 10) is actually within the American definition of autumn. The rope cut off the supply of blood to her tail, and it naturally detached from her body. She was spotted and caught by a small fishing boat and the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute stranding team (with assistance from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute), who brought her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.[2]

Prosthetic tail[edit]

Irish prosthetist Kevin Carroll and a team of experts took a year and a half designing and testing a tail for Winter, eventually settling on a simple silicone and plastic tail in 2007.[3] A gel-like sleeve was used under the tail, in order to prevent it from irritating Winter's skin.[4] In Winter's case however, both the flukes and the caudal peduncle had been severed, making the task much more difficult.[4]

Lessons learned from Winter also have been applied to human amputees. Carroll used the same gel sleeve concept to ease painful prosthetic limbs for US Air Force Senior Airman Brian Kolfage, who lost both legs and his right hand in a 2004 mortar attack in Iraq.


Dr. Naomi Rose, the senior scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute, has argued that the Clearwater aquarium is unfit to house dolphins long term while also asserting that Winter's quality of life is in fact extremely poor, such to the point that she would be better off euthanized. After personally observing the dolphin, she points out that Winter does not wear her prosthetic for long periods of time due to discomfort and that she exhibits stereotypic behaviors such as logging in one place for extended periods of time.

"She is paying a very high price to be that inspiration ... CMA is shifting," she claims, "from rescue to pure display and that's unfortunate. It's not doing Winter any good."

Terrie Weeks Dana Zucker, the former Chief Operating Officer at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, said that initially, CMA was doing some really good things for Winter. "I'm not seeing those things happen now."[5]

In popular culture[edit]

Winter has become the most popular attraction at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. She is often thought of as an inspiration to children and adults with medical conditions and disabilities. Brock Mealer (brother of Michigan Wolverines player Eliot Mealer), who was paralyzed in a car accident and overcame large odds against him, met Winter in December 2010 to significant press coverage.[6] Books and Nintendo DS games have been published about Winter.[7][8]

In 2009 Winter's story was told by Craig Hatkoff in Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again. The book was published by Turtle Pond Publications and Scholastic.

Craig Hatkoff's short book was adapted into an interactive storybook on the Nintendo DS, under the same title.

A film based on Winter's story, titled Dolphin Tale, was released September 23, 2011.[9][10] The film's main protagonist is a young boy who is played by Nathan Gamble. It also stars Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Kris Kristofferson, Kurt Yaeger, and Cozi Zuehlsdorff.[9] Winter played herself in the film. Several modifications were made to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to accommodate her, including a new 80,000-gallon pool.[11] The movie was filmed in Clearwater, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and other locations in Pinellas County, Florida.[12]

A sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, was released in theaters on September 12, 2014. This sequel focuses on Hope, the dolphin who now lives with Winter.


  1. ^ "Researchers Hope to Give Dolphin Prosthetic Tail: Underwater interview of Diana Zucker by Melissa Block". National Public Radio.
  2. ^ Ludmilla Lelis, Orlando Sentinel (27 November 2010). "Winter the dolphin's rescue off Volusia has Hollywood ending".
  3. ^ Daniel Aven (9 August 2007). ""Bionic" Dolphin Getting New Tail". The Early Show. CBS News. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  4. ^ a b Jaime Holguin (26 August 2007). "Fuji The Dolphin's Rubber Tail". CBS Evening News. CBS News. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  5. ^ Batt, Elizabeth. "Documentary reveals the true life of Winter the dolphin". Digital Journal. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  6. ^ Theodora Aggeles (30 December 2010). "Once-paralyzed Ohio man meets Clearwater's Winter the dolphin". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Winter's Tail DS". Retrieved 2012-06-23.
  8. ^ "Scholastic's 'Winter's Tail' Makes Waves". Retrieved 2012-06-23.
  9. ^ a b "Dolphin's Tale". IMBd. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  10. ^ Steve Persall (20 July 2010). "Filming of A Dolphin's Tale (in 3D!) to begin Sept. 27 at Clearwater Marine Aquarium and other Pinellas County locations". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  11. ^ Mike Brassfield (19 December 2010). "Clearwater Marine Aquarium reaps new features left over from filming 'Dolphin Tale'". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Winter the dolphin movie wraps filming". Bay News 9. 10 December 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2011.

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