For the past couple of years, the idea that we’re communal animals has become more and more evident. The pandemic has really shown us how important it is for us to interact in groups.

Even the most reclusive person needs the human contact that is such an important part of our essential being.

That cooperative spirit allows us to accomplish incredible things.

We’re most successful when we work together to accomplish goals. Often in this column we’ve looked at cooperative programs that relate to the beachfront where different people or groups have combined efforts and resources to create an outcome that’s much greater than each individual part.

Survivor Support Network, Wave Watchers, Galveston Marine Response, all the various groups that protect, clean, maintain and provide services on the beachfront are examples of this concept.

To me, one thing that’s especially awe-inspiring is when we not only work together to help people but when people work together to help our fellow animals. Not much demonstrates this concept better than the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

This amazing group of mostly volunteers coordinates rescues of dolphins and whales along the Texas coast. We, as lifeguards, often have the privilege to work alongside our partners in the coastal zone management department of the park board to help save stranded animals and to manage the care of their bodies when they don’t survive a stranding.

The network is dedicated to the conservation of marine mammals through rescue and rehabilitation, research and education. The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network provides a coordinated response to all marine mammal strandings along the Texas coastline.

Most of what we see in our area are bottlenose dolphins swimming, playing, eating and occasionally stranding. Occasionally, a tourist will mistake their dorsal fins for a shark’s and panic. Normally, you don’t see shark fins from shore, and sharks have triangular fins and dolphins have curved fins that sweep back.

Dolphins are incredibly intelligent with larger brains and more complicated language than we humans possess. They’re even more communal than we are and are usually in small groups called pods swimming so close together that they often graze each other. Using echolocation, they’re so aware of each other in the water that they often coordinate their movement to the point where it seems they have one mind. Being air-breathing mammals, stranding themselves when sick, injured or dying is a way to avoid drowning.

They often come up to their human counterparts who are swimming, surfing, boating or fishing. It’s a bit unnerving to be in the water and have something so large and powerful come up and stare at you out of an eye that radiates curiosity and intelligence. But I’ve never heard of them injuring a human and there are plenty of tales of them helping us.

So, maybe the wonderful work of the network is a small way of paying them back.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity.

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Bailey Jones

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