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Lone dolphin may be victim of bullying

Paul Bersebach / AP

A dolphin swims in wetlands at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, Calif. Rescue crews tried over the weekend to guide the confused dolphin from the shallow waters of Bolsa Chica.

A lone dolphin that has spent the past five days swimming in the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Southern California may be the victim of bullying, NBCLosAngeles.com reported.  

The dolphin may have been prevented from leaving the Huntington Beach nature preserve by other dolphins, Peter Wallerstein, director of Marine Animal Rescue told the Register. This would be a rare occurrence, as dolphins are social creatures that typically travel in a pod.

NBCLosAngeles.com: Dolphin chooses to stay in Bolsa Chica wetlands

“He was scared, he was intimidated, he was bullied,” Wallerstein told the Los Angeles Times. Dolphins "can be very aggressive toward each other. They’re not the sweet, loving, gentle animals portrayed by the movies and the cartoons. They do have a dark side.”

On Saturday, Wallerstein and officers from the state Department of Fish and Game used paddle boards to shoo the dolphin back to the ocean. When two other dolphins emerged, apparently blocking the lone dolphin's path back to the ocean, it dove under the paddle boards and swam back to the wetlands.

But Dennis Kelly, who has studied dolphins and marine life for 34 years, told the Orange County Register that he doubted the dolphin is being bullied.

“Maybe the others are angry,” Kelly, an instructor of Orange Coast College, said. “‘You’re lagging behind, you moron.’ Maybe they were going whack it. ‘You’re not paying attention. Slap! OK, we’re leaving.’”

On Monday, the 7-foot dolphin stayed put and fed on fish. Observers said the dolphin could figure out on its own how to return to the ocean via the narrow channel.

For now, marine life experts are adopting a hands-off approach while watching the dolphin around the clock.

Meantime, crowds have gathered and are beginning to name the dolphin, even if they don’t know its sex. Contenders are Fred and Bolsa Chica Bob.

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