Rescue teams raced to save four bottle-nose dolphins trapped in a river as the ice closed in around them.

The rescuers cut through the ice and slush to clear a path to the sea, but that didn't work. Today, they planned to string a 160-foot net between two boats and herd the dolphins out of the Shrewsbury River."We're not going to let them freeze. We're not going to leave them here," said state Marine Patrol Sgt. Erich Herkloz. "If we don't get them out of here, they aren't going to be getting out."

Marine Police have tried since Monday to help the dolphins to open water so they can head south for the winter. They have been feeding in the river since July. The species typically begins its southward migration in September.

The dolphins may have become disoriented because their instincts told them to swim south, but they had to go north first to get out of the river, said Bob Schoelkopf, head of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.

View Comments

Dolphins can live in cold water but need to come up for air every few minutes. If caught under ice, they drown. Experts said a deep freeze that has settled over the region threatened the mammals' survival.

The "Christmas" dolphins were dubbed Noel, Holly, Frosty and Poinsettia by a country club worker in Rumson, on the river's shores.

On Tuesday morning, experts noticed one of the dolphins swam more slowly than the rest.

"That's not a good sign," Schoelkopf said. "It could have frostbite. It could be coming down with pneumonia. It might have hurt itself breaking through the ice. We'll be looking at that."

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.