THE BOTTLENOSE dolphin that had been spotted on various occasions swimming in the River Severn has been found dead.

The dolphin was spotted by members of Minsterworth Water Ski Club around 500m downstream from Elmore.

It is then believed that the dolphin followed fish up the River Severn passing by Severn Beach and Oldbury-on-Severn before last being spotted as far upstream as Stonebench, near Gloucester.

Around 300-400 bottlenose dolphins, which are a protected species, live in the sea around the UK and a group was known to be living around the South West coast.

It is thought that this individual separated from its pod as part of a process called fission fusion.

Last week it was hoped that the dolphin would find its way back downstream but the dolphin was spotted not far from where it was last seen.

Stephen Marsh, operations manager for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said:

“Sadly, with no further reports of sightings from anyone in the area we were all under the impression that the dolphin had returned to open water as they normally do.

“We will try to secure the body and have let the CSIP (Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme) know and one of their pathologists will try and collect samples from it for further analysis.

“Bottlenose dolphins rarely get into trouble so this is not a common happening.”

David Longbotham, Commodore at Minsterworth Water Ski Club, who spotted the dolphin said:

“We were looking out for any signs of the dolphin as we had seen the recent video and knew it was likely to still be in the area.

“Recent high tides would likely disorientate the dolphin, and as we had not heard of additional sightings, we suspected it may have grown tired and anxious in the muddy tidal water.”

He added: “We were out wakeboarding on a sunny Sunday and whilst driving our boat I was looking towards the bank in the Elmore area and saw a large dark cylinder shape by the steep bank, sheltered in the shade under an overhanging tree.

“I knew immediately that it was a fish or seal, as one of its pectoral fins was protruding upright above the main body, like a shark’s dorsal fin.

“On closer inspection, we could see that it was lying on its side, but floating its mouth open, with teeth visible in a long jawbone confirming absolutely that it was a bottlenose dolphin, about 7 or 8 feet in length, and about 2 foot across the belly.

“There were no marks from injury or disease, so it looked like it had died naturally.

“It was a sad sight, as we had all hoped the dolphin had returned to the channel, but it was also interesting to see it up close.

“We took some photographs, and left it where it lay.”